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State House takes brine off SB 790 legislation

The most contentious element of legislation that would create separate regulations for the conventional oil & gas industry has been removed.

The state House Environmental Resources & Energy committee reported out an amended version of SB 790 on Monday.

But the most controversial element — language that would have permitted the use of oil & gas wastewater, also called brine, on the roads as a dust suppressant — was removed entirely.

Martin Causer, who represents the 67th district which includes all of Cameron and McKean as well as part of Potter County, put forth the amendment to strike the brine language on Tuesday, online committee records indicate.

Per those records, the amendment “removes the portion of the bill allowing for use of brine on unpaved roads and lowers spill amounts that would trigger reporting requirements.”

The committee unanimously approved that amendment and reported the bill out of committee with a 16-9 vote, which fell largely on party lines.

State Representative Kathy Rapp supported both measures.

The bill now can be found on Wednesday’s House’s tabled bill calendar, the first step in the multiple phases of consideration required by House rules before passage.

Concurrence from the Senate would be needed given the amendment and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has reported that Gov. Wolf has indicated that the bill, if approved, would be vetoed.

The genesis of de facto state-wide moratorium placed on brine spreading — used by some municipalities as a dust suppressant on dirt roads as well as a de-icing agent — dates to a 2017 appeal filed by a Farmington Township resident, Siri Lawson.

She challenged a permit that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had issued to a local firm that had been contracted by the township to spread brine on dirt roads in the township.

The state’s Environmental Hearing Board ultimately dismissed Lawson’s petition but not until DEP acknowledged in a filing that brine should be classified as a residual waste under the Solid Waste Management Act.

Since that decision last May, DEP has essentially had to go back to the drawing board to develop regulations and procedures on this issue and the General Assembly has considered – but not passed – any potential solution.

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