as Fracking Fluid & Gives Polluters a Pass
New law gives a far-reaching waiver of liability to coal and oil and gas companies in the Commonwealth
Harrisburg, PA – Environmental advocates are reacting with disappointment and concern at the news that Governor Tom Wolf has signed a controversial bill allowing for the use of coal mine drainage as a fracking fluid while providing a waiver of liability to polluters.
“Governor Wolf has thrown in with the gas and oil companies by signing this law that promotes mine drainage for fracking while removing liability for the pollution this can cause. How can the Governor favor protecting these polluting industries over the public and the environment? This law is unjust for coal ravaged communities which will now be subjected to water raids and to those areas already reeling from shale gas development, and heaps further harm on Pennsylvania’s injured environment,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
“We're disappointed that Governor Wolf didn't listen to our nearly 300 members who wrote him a letter asking him to veto this bill. The bottom line is this law takes us in the wrong direction. We should be removing exemptions polluters enjoy, not reinforcing their exemptions or adding to them,” said Steve Hvozdovich, Pennsylvania Campaigns Director for Clean Water Action.
Twenty-two organizations submitted a letter to Governor Wolf earlier this week calling for a veto.[i]
The letter states, “Peer-reviewed science does not support the General Assembly’s claims that treated coal mine water is ‘an acceptable source of water” and can be “effectively substituted for fresh water’ for use in oil and gas well development. In fact, very little research is available on how mine water reacts with fracking chemicals and information that is available exposes several problems that can result from the use of mine water – problems that responsible parties could be shielded from if this bill is enacted.”
The letter goes on to address problems with an amendment in the final version of the bill, stating, “First, the amendment is BROADER than the original Section 5 of SB 875 – it reads that even treated mine water NOT being used in oil and gas development would be exempted from the definition of ‘solid waste’. Secondly, the amendment could be interpreted to apply to ALL mine drainage, not only treated mine water because “treated” is not used as a modifier before mine drainage in the amendment. This could mean the bill could incentivize water withdrawals of raw mine drainage, as SB411 had sought to do, which increases the risk of pollution from dangerously contaminated water to other parts of the state and to the Commonwealth’s ground and surface waters from untreated mine pool water and discharges. Lastly, under the complex interplay of the applicable statutes, it can reasonably be interpreted that only treatment sludges from mine drainage plants are currently exempt from the Solid Waste Management Act; the effect of the bill will be to remove important environmental regulation that currently applies to mine drainage and treated mine water when used in oil and gas development. This will open up new pollution pathways while granting waivers of liability to companies that would be responsible.”
“Similar bills had been introduced in recent years and, each time, they were held back thanks to strong opposition by the environmental community and the public. SB 875 generated the same response, yet Governor Wolf turned a deaf ear to the advocates and concerned citizens who were calling on him to put the people’s needs over those of the industry,” said Karen Feridun, Founder of Berks Gas Truth.
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