Wastewater impoundments a bad practice

April 29, 2013

I feel compelled to respond to the April 23 letter from Range Resources’ Matt Pitzarella, in which he says: “Range is on record on countless occasions being in support of, and in fact lobbying for, not against, smarter and tighter regulations that adapt to new and emerging technologies.”

This statement is stunning because less than 24 hours earlier, every member of the state House of Representatives was lobbied to do exactly the opposite. The Marcellus Shale Coalition, speaking on behalf of Range Resources, circulated email messages to urge a vote against my amendments to House bills 302, 303 and 308. It should be noted that Range Resources and the Marcellus Shale Coalition combined to spend more than $1 million in just a three-month span last year lobbying the state legislature to pass Act 13, the law designed to eliminate the accountability of the drilling industry to local communities.

My amendments to House bills 302, 303 and 308 would ban open air impoundments for the disposal of hazardous wastewater from drilling operations, leading to the use of closed loop/closed containment systems instead. Closed loop/closed containment systems should fit into anyone’s definition of “new and emerging technologies,” and my amendments are “smarter and tighter regulations that adapt” to those technologies. Many responsible drillers operating in Pennsylvania have abandoned wastewater impoundments already, and they are specifically discussed as a performance standard by the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, which includes such companies as Shell, Chevron, Consol and EQT. It is worth noting that Range refuses to participate in this initiative to adopt industrywide best practices.

Last August, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas Management issued a draft report with recommendations for updates to drilling regulations. Section 78.58 clearly stated, “The long-term storage of production fluids in a pit presents an unacceptable risk to the environment though leaks or overtopping of the pit.”� Somehow, this recommendation disappeared from the final version of the regulations. I have submitted a Right-to-Know request to determine whether Range submitted comments to the DEP requesting the regulation be removed; the DEP has yet to provide me with any information.

Since 2011, the DEP, Gov. Tom Corbett and the Marcellus Shale Coalition itself have spoken out against taking this wastewater to municipal treatment plants because of the adverse environmental impact. If this wastewater is known to impact the waterways of Pennsylvania, how is it good policy to dig an enormous hole in a residential area and let the water (and whatever volatile organic compounds it contains) evaporate into the surrounding air?

Wastewater impoundments are simply not an industry best practice; they’re little more than toxic waste dumps, and new and better technologies absolutely exist. While Range Resources, through Matt Pitzarella, specifically told the readers of the Observer-Reporter they lobby in favor of smarter regulations and new technologies, Range’s paid lobbyist through the Marcellus Shale Coalition was literally doing the exact opposite. So who is Range Resources lying to – the readers of the Observer-Reporter, or the members of the Pennsylvania Legislature?

If this logical interpretation is incorrect, or if Pitzarella’s comments were in error, it would be helpful for the readers of the Observer-Reporter and members of the Pennsylvania Legislature to know before we take up this important issue on the House floor in the coming weeks. If we are truly committed to “getting it right” on Marcellus Shale, as we should be, we deserve honest and fact-based debate, not more public relations doublespeak.

Jesse White


White is the representative for Pennsylvania’s 46th Legislative District.


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