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Legislation clears its first hurdle

Legislation aimed at creating separate oil and gas regulations for the conventional and unconventional industries — and permitting brine spreading on dirt roads — has cleared its first hurdle.

The bill (HB 1144) passed the Environmental Resources and Energy committee 16-9 on Tuesday with one Democrat crossing over to vote in favor of the bill with the entire Republican contingent.

“This bill is something that this committee has worked on for many, many years,” Martin Causer, the bill’s prime sponsor, said during the committee hearing. “(It is) certainly something that I think is very important.”

Daryl Metcalfe, the majority chair of the committee, said the bill “provides safety that we need” for the environment and communities while also “ensuring small business owners are able to continue operations.”

The minority chair, Greg Vitali, said conventional “mom and pop operations” are “good people … but they’re impactful.”

“They do need to be regulated,” he said. “The bill in its current form has some problems.”

Vitali said the most frequently cited problem is the use of “untreated brine spreading on roadways and that has some consequences.”

He noted Penn State is expected to release a study on the brine issue this month.

Rapp said people in Warren County are “good people (that) also like clean air and clean water.”

She told the committee there are likely members on the committee who don’t have a dirt road in their district and argued that the Allegheny National Forest has the cleanest air and water in the state.

“Oil from the conventional wells is what saved our whales from being slaughtered for their oil because of their fat in their body,” she added. “It is the oil that lubricated (the) machines of World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, so that we were able to successfully win those wars.”

She cited benefits in the legislation specifically enhancements to well plugging operations.

Rapp rattled off a list of petroleum products.

“When I see people receiving money from the (Marcellus Shale) impact fee” to create greenspace, Rapp said “we don’t have to look for greenspace in the counties we represent. … Everyone has greenspace in their backyard.”

“This has been a long road and we’re not going to give up,” she added, noting that the conventional industry has given “so much.”

She lambasted the state Legislature for attempting to tell people how to run their businesses, calling it a “slap in the face … to imply we don’t want clean air, clean water. Truly, you have no idea.”

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