State Panel Approves Water Discharge, Gas Well Regulations

Potter County Today

Pennsylvania’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) has passed, by a 4-1 vote, stronger discharge regulations that affect natural gas drilling wastewater. Supporters, including the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection, said the regulations ensure that drilling wastewater containing high concentrations of total dissolved solids does not pollute water supplies, damage industrial equipment, or endanger aquatic life. Under the new standards,  discharges must meet a concentration threshold of 2,000 milligrams per liter and wastewater discharges from drilling operations cannot exceed 500 mg/l.

DEP said the tougher standard was set for the drilling industry because drilling wastewater is so heavily polluted, and because drillers have options other than returning water to rivers and streams — such as reusing and recycling it, or injecting it deep underground. Several states, including Texas, Oklahoma, New York, Iowa, Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee, prohibit returning any drilling wastewater to streams.

In addition, IRRC members approved proposed rules that will strengthen Pennsylvania’s well construction standards and define a drilling company’s responsibility for responding to gas migration issues. The new rules will require well operators to conduct quarterly well inspections and report results to DEP. The regulations also enhance rules governing erosion, sediment control and stormwater.  DEP Secretary John Hanger called the proposed regulation “the single most important rule protecting the environment” for decades to come.

With approval by the IRRC and the Environmental Quality Board, the regulations now go before the Pa. General Assembly for final approval.


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