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Brine language included in new oil and gas regs

Legislation has again been introduced that would create separate regulations for the conventional and unconventional oil and gas industries.

And Warren County’s representation in the General Assembly is in the middle of the fight.

Companion pieces of legislation were introduced Thursday.

The Senate version is SB 534 while the House version — which appears to be largely identical — is HB 1144.

Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-21) is the prime sponsor while Sen. Michele Brooks (R-50) is the first listed co-sponsor.

On the House side, Rep. Martin Causer (R-67), put forth the legislation with Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65) the first co-sponsor on the bill.

Hutchinson put forth a similar proposal in the last session that was vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf.

At the time, Wolf noted that the legislation “poses an unacceptable risk to the environment and the public health and safety of our citizens.”

“At a time when the conventional industry is still incurring violations at three to four times the rate of the unconventional industry, this legislation is completely unacceptable,” he stated, noting that some of the provisions “run afoul” of the state Constitution.

“Conventional oil and gas wells are small, low pressure units that dot western Pennsylvania’s landscape,” Hutchinson wrote in a legislative memo for this new legislation. “This is markedly different from Pennsylvania’s new unconventional shale (Marcellus and Utica) wells. These unconventional shale wells use advanced technology to tap large, deep, high-pressure gas formations.

“The size, complexity and economics of unconventional shale wells greatly exceed that of conventional wells, and as such require different regulations and rules.”

He notes that Act 13 back in 2012 addressed unconventional issues but “also placed an unbearable burden on the much smaller conventional producers and over time has brought the conventional industry to near collapse due to the lack of separate regulation as distinct industries.

“These industries are vastly different from each other, and if we fail to recognize that difference and regulate accordingly this family, community, and life sustaining industry will not survive.”

One element of the last version of the legislation that was in and then out was a solution to what to do with the byproduct — wastewater, brine, whatever name you prefer.

A case originating out of Farmington Township, Warren County resulted in a state-wide moratorium on the use of oil and gas wastewater as a dust suppressant and de-icer that is still in effect.

The legislature attempted to permit the use of brine in Hutchinson’s bill last session but the language was struck prior to final passage and the subsequent veto.

It’s back in this version.

From the legislation: “Consistent with the provisions of the Solid Waste Management Act which require the department to encourage the beneficial use or reuse of residual waste derived from commercial and industrial purposes where the use does not harm or threaten public health, safety, welfare or the environment, the department shall approve the use of brine for dust control, road stabilization, anti-icing and de-icing upon application using forms developed by the department and in accordance with conditions reasonably necessary for the protection of the environment and prevention of pollution.”

The legislation was sent to each chamber’s committee on Environmental Resources & Energy on Thursday.

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