The DEregulation goes on and on and on: Conventional Oil & Gas Industry Major 2019 Goal: To Restore Program To Spread Well Waste Water On Roads (without oversight and keeping toxic chemical contents secret)

In May, the Pennsylvania Grade Crude (Oil) Development Advisory Council, created by the Senate and House to “advise” the state against adopting “unreasonable” regulations on the conventional oil and gas industry, released its annual report setting out its major goals for 2019, including “reinstatement of the practice of road spreading of brine [waste water from wells] on dirt and gravel roads.”

As a result of a 2017 appeal to the Environmental Hearing Board, DEP’s Oil and Gas Program  imposed a moratorium on all road spreading of waste water from wells in the state in 2018.

However, the spreading of waste water from wells on roads is still authorized under the Waste Management Program under a co-product determination that allows the use of waste that has similar properties to commercial products to be used as if it were that product under the beneficial use provisions of the waste regulations.

While DEP told the Citizens Advisory Council in January they have no plans to develop a regulation or permit to authorize the road spreading of waste water from wells, DEP and the Pennsylvania Grade Crude (Oil) Development Advisory Council have been in discussions on the issue most of last year and this year.

Recent research by Penn State and others has shown the road spreading of waste water from wells as a dust suppressant is not only not effective, but contaminates the roads and wash sediment and pollutants into nearby streams.

There has also been other research pointing to not only environmental but also health impacts from using oil and gas well waste water for dust control.  Click Here for a summary.

Another recent study found that between 1991 and 2017, 240.4 million gallons of waste water from conventional oil and gas wells were applied to roads, according to DEP records.

The annual report of the Crude (Oil) Development Advisory Council contains a special section devoted to the issue of oil and gas production water issues, including the goal of reinstating the road spreading program.

Recently, legislation was introduced in the General Assembly– Senate Bill 790 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson) and House Bill 1635 (Causer-R-Cameron)that would make the road spreading of waste water from wells and production water from conventional oil and gas wells legal.

EarthWorks Blog Post

With this background, it seems timely to reprint a June 26  EarthWorks Blog article by Melissa Troutman of EarthWorks who heads a project dealing with oil and gas wastewater issues.  Here is that post–

Pennsylvania’s oil and gas politicians are back at their old tricks of turning back the clock on protections for air, water, health, and the climate. Just like when they killed important new regulations for the conventional oil and gas industry, they introduced two new dangerous bills in recent weeks.

Senate Bill 790 and House Bill 1635, introduced by Senator Joseph Scarnati (R-25, Brockway) and Representative Martin Causer (R-67, Turtlepoint), would have created “environmental and public health risks and [loosen] current environmental protections to the point, in some cases, of nullification” – that’s according to Pennsylvania’s own Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP).

We at Earthworks often wish PA DEP would go further to hold the fossil fuel industry fully and financially accountable for the dire environmental and health impacts it creates. So if PA DEP is wary, the rest of us need to be doubly concerned.

Both bills are bad, but Scarnati’s bill is especially so for two reasons:

It exempts wastewater spread on unpaved roads from the Solid Waste Management Act, the law under which potentially toxic wastewater was kept off of roads in the past.

— “[T]o facilitate the prompt implementation” of “the beneficial use of produced water,” SB 790 allows for two years of “temporary regulations” that are “not subject to” administrative, legal or public review.

Both the Scarnati and Causer bills will:

Allow operators to keep the chemicals they use, which end up in their waste, confidential from the public– even when the waste is spread directly on unpaved roads near homes [SB790 § 313(b.2)]

Put oil and gas wastewater on roads without testing for all pollutants, including radioactive materials, petroleum hydrocarbons, and “trade secret” chemicals [HB1635 § 904(d); SB790 § 707(a)]

— Only require “regional” testing of wastewater used on roads, even though chemical contents change from well to well [HB1635 § 904(f); SB790 § 707(a)2]

Prevents PA DEP from “impos[ing] conditions” that require wastewater to be any better or different than a commercial product it’s meant to replace [HB 1635 § 904(d); SB790  § 707(a)2] even though it is very different. Oil and gas wastewater contains naturally-occurring and added toxins that other commercial products do not.

— Allow operators to spill up to 5 barrels of oil and 15 barrels of oil and gas wastewater and never report it to anyone [SB790 § 704(f)2; HB1635 § 1103(b)2]

Why would these legislators want to put the public at risk by restricting testing, reducing tracking and reporting, and dispersing unknown chemicals onto roads where we live, work, travel, play, and grow food?

Perhaps it has something to do with the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars they receive from the industry. They also like to perpetuate the myth that conventional oil and gas operations are benign–when in fact, DEP data show that violations by conventional operators are on the rise and occur at more than half of such sites.

Senator Scarnati has received more money from the oil and gas industry than any other current legislator. Representative Causer has also been lobbied and supported by the industry during his tenure.

The oil and gas industry spent $46.6 million on lobbying in Harrisburg between 2010 and 2017.  They made political campaign contributions totaling $14.5 million over that same time period.

Senator Scarnati has received $693,971. Causer has received $22,500.

Our elected officials need to hear from the citizen lobby – us – in order to protect our communities, our families, our rights and the environment. Here’s what you can do:

Call your municipal officials and ask if your township or city has used oil and gas “brine” wastewater on your local roads in the past. Request they not do so in the future until the state requires every batch of wastewater “brine” to be tested for every potential toxin.

Click Here for a copy of the EarthWorks Blog post.  Melissa Troutman can be contacted by sending email to: email hidden; JavaScript is required or call 202-887-1872 x 132.

Related Articles – Drilling Waste Water Spreading:

Op-Ed: The Story Behind Stopping Conventional Oil & Gas Brine Spreading On Dirt Roads

Op-Ed: Will Our Dirt Roads Again Be Used As Dumping Sites For Oil & Gas Well Wastewater

New Study Tracks Liquid, Solid Waste From Conventional, Unconventional Oil & Gas Development In PA From Generation To Disposal

Penn State: Potential Health Impacts Of Oil and Gas Wastewater On Roads

Oil & Gas Well Brines For Dust Control On Unpaved Roads – Part I- Ineffectiveness

Penn State Study: Using Oil & Gas Well Brine As Dust Suppressant Less Than Ideal

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