Groups Gathering Support For Letter Urging DEP, Gov. Wolf, AG Shapiro To Support A Total Ban On Road Dumping Of Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater; 240.4 Million Gallons Of Conventional Drilling Wastewater Dumped On PA Roads

Environmental and citizens groups are gathering support for a letter to the Department of Environmental Protection, Gov. Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro urging them to support action to enact a total ban on road dumping of oil and gas drilling wastewater from all sources.

The letter is reacting to statements by DEP representatives at an August 19 meeting of the PA Grade Crude [Oil] Development Advisory Council that they are looking for studies to justify a program to allow road dumping of oil and gas wastewater.  Read more here.

DEP did ban road dumping of oil and gas wastewater from unconventional, shale gas drilling operations in 2016, but still allows it for conventional oil and gas drilling operations even though conventional drilling now frequently involves fracking wells.

A study released in May 2019 documented the dumping of over 240.4 million gallons of conventional drilling wastewater on dirt and gravel roads between 1991 and 2017.  And the practice is continuing.  Read more here.

Click Here to see typical scenes of road dumping conventional drilling wastewater.

The letter groups are being asked to sign-on to says in part--

"A growing body of peer-reviewed research has consistently demonstrated that road spreading of drilling waste damages the environment and poses risks to public health. As is the case with virtually all peer-reviewed research on oil & gas drilling, the trajectory has been one that has broadened and deepened our understanding of impacts already occurring and potential risks, not one that has reversed our thinking in any way.

“Spending taxpayer dollars in the search for data to support your intended policy shift is an unacceptable professional and ethical breach of your duty to the Constitution you swore  to uphold."

"DEP must halt any plans to develop regulations that would allow road spreading of drilling waste. Instead, the DEP must ban road spreading of drilling waste under any circumstances.”

Drilling Wastewater Isn’t A Product

“Further, the current moratorium on road spreading contains a dangerous loophole that an outright ban would close.

“Companies are allowed to make a coproduct self-determination that allows road spreading of conventional waste.

“DEP defines a coproduct as “a material generated by a manufacturing or production process, or a spent material, of a physical character and chemical composition that is consistently equivalent to the physical character and chemical composition of an intentionally manufactured product or produced raw material, if the use of the material presents no greater threat of harm to human health and the environment than the use of the product or raw material.”

“Part (d) of section § 287.8 of the Pennsylvania Code states that, “A person who completes a coproduct determination shall maintain documentation supporting the determination. This documentation shall be available to the Department upon request.”

“PIOGA [PA Independent Oil and Gas Association’ representative Burt Waite said in his remarks to the Council that the DEP has been requesting copies of the self-determinations this summer and that the action has left operators “nervous”.

“It would appear that DEP did not make a practice of requesting copies of self-determinations prior to this summer which suggests that road spreading has gone on since the moratorium was put in place with no oversight by your agency.

“DEP must gather all self-determination reports completed to date and make them available to the public.

“Finally, the [Crude Oil] Council expressed concern about a new PennState study, “Efficacy of Oil and Gas Produced Water as a Dust Suppressant”.

“The study finds road spreading of brine to be “an environmentally unsound” practice that is also less effective than treating roads with commercial products, thanks to brine’s high sodium content that could actually leave some roads dustier.

“Among the protestations by Council members were claims that Penn State is doing its research in a  laboratory, not in the real world, and that Arthur Stewart of the Pennsylvania Grade Crude Oil Coalition and others have received both thank you notes when brine has been spread and complaints that the moratorium has taken away the popular dust suppressant.

“The Council voted to write a letter to Penn State and DEP to ask that they be included in any studies going forward.  This letter should be made public.

“Last year, the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee amended Senate Bill 790 to remove a provision to allow the road spreading of drilling waste. This year, House Bill 1144 expands on the provision in last year’s bill to allow waste to be spread on both unpaved and paved roads.

“The bill, passed by the House in May, has been referred to the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

“The Council appears to be willing to leapfrog over the legislative process by pressuring the DEP to develop regulations.

“DEP must reject the industry’s continued attempts to interfere with credible scientific research and legislative and regulatory processes.

“While we were finalizing this letter,  Ohio’s Department of Transportation announced it would no longer purchase the controversial Aqua Salina, which is made from drilling waste.

“Tests have found that the product contains both radium-226 and radium-228. However, the Department’s stated reason is that there are other products that work better.

“The recent Penn State study came to the same conclusion when it compared drilling waste to commercial products.

“In attempting to challenge the study, one participant in the [Crude Oil] Council meeting said that the commercial products should have to go through an environmental review of their own. They have.

Penn State’s Center for Dirt and Gravel Road Studies issues a list of products they have approved for use. Although they concur [with the Penn State study] that commercial products are superior to brine [drilling wastewater], they state that the “products are approved by environmental standards, not performance standards.”

“Suggesting that the products have not undergone testing is an attempt at misdirection by the industry. If DEP is not going to challenge such assertions, you should, at least, disregard them.”

Click Here for a copy of the letter and instructions for how to join.  Questions should be directed to Karen Feridun, Berks Gas Truth, by sending email to:

Related Articles:

-- Road Dumping Of Drilling Wastewater; Radiation Monitoring Of Drilling Wastes; More On DEP Oil & Gas Advisory Board Agenda Sept. 9

-- New Study Tracks Liquid, Solid Waste From Conventional, Unconventional Oil & Gas Development In PA From Generation To Disposal; 240.4 Million Gallons Of Conventional Wastewater Dumped On PA Roads

-- DEP To Propose Regulations Allowing Road Dumping Of Conventional Drilling Wastewater Across PA

-- New Penn State Study Shows Road Dumping Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater Has Little Dust Suppression Benefit, Contains Pollutants Harmful To Human Health, Agriculture, Aquatic Life

-- Penn State Center For Dirt & Gravel Road Studies: Road Dumping Of Oil & Gas Wastewater To Control Dust Is Environmentally Unsound Practice

-- Road Dumping Of Oil & Gas Well Wastewater Is Happening Now In Crawford, Erie, Warren Counties As House Prepares To Take Up Bill This Week To Make It Legal

-- Dangers Posed By Oil & Gas Drilling Wastes, Abandoned Wells + Siri Lawson’s Story From Warren County

-- House Republicans Pass Bill Legalizing Road Dumping Of Conventional Oil & Gas Well Wastewater, Rolling Back Environmental Protection Standards

[Posted: September 2, 2021]


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