Brine on dirt road usage remains cloudy

Whether brine can be used as a dust suppressant — and de-icer — on dirt roads in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is — again — stuck in the mud.

A bill before the state House of Representatives, that initially included language to permit such use of oil and gas wastewater, was amended in committee earlier this week with the entire section that addresses this issue struck from the proposed legislation.

That sends opponents, proponents, the General Assembly and the Department of Environmental Protection back to the drawing board

In the wake of the committee’s move to strike a potential legislative solution, Tom Decker, Community Relations Coordinator with Meadville’s DEP office, said that “spreading oil/gas brines is still prohibited.”

“DEP is continuing to explore options regarding brine spreading,” Decker added.

What those options are, however, are not yet clear.

The state-wide prohibition originated in Warren County.

The appeal was filed by Siri Lawson, Lindell Road, Farmington Township, in 2017.

It specifically challenged DEP’s granting of a plan approval to Hydro Transport LLC, which had been contracted by Farmington and Sugar Grove Townships to apply brine on township roads.

“Brine from oil and gas wells contains not only salts such as sodium, calcium and bromide but also radioactive elements such as radium and barium, as well as ammonium and iodide, among other potential pollutants,”

Lawson’s attorney wrote in a filing. “(T)he spread of brine from conventional oil and gas operations for dust suppression and road stabilization has never been approved as a beneficial use in Pennsylvania…. In order for a residual waste, such as oil and gas brine, to be approved for beneficial use, the Department of Environmental Protection must issue a general permit…. A general permit has never been issued for the beneficial use of brine for dust suppression and road stabilization.”

In their motion for permission to intervene, Farmington Township’s counsel noted that the township entered into the agreement with Hydro Transport LLC, that Hydro Transport LLC submitted for DEP plan approval and that the approval was granted the following day.

“The beneficial use of brine for Roadspreading is a valuable tool utilized by Farmington Township, and other municipalities in the area, to provide dust control and prevent dust pollution,” their counsel argued, seeking to intervene in the appeal “to defend in utilizing the Roadspreading of brine in the future as a cost effective and environmentally safe method….”

DEP acknowledged during the appeal process that the plan approval shouldn’t have been granted.

The Warren County Commissioners – specifically Commissioners Ben Kafferlin and Jeff Eggleston – have discussed becoming involved in helping find a solution though such efforts been largely theoretical to this point.

The legislation that contained brine language – SB 790 – was up for second consideration in the House of Representatives on Wednesday and was sent back to the Appropriations Committee.

A rumor popped up that the brine language was re-inserted on the floor on Wednesday but a representative from Rep. Daryl Matcalfe’s office consulted the secretary of the Environmental Resources & Energy Committee who indicated no changes to the bill unfolded on Wednesday.


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