Pennsylvania Governor Vetoes Bill To Address Conventional Well Rules
WEXFORD, PA.–The Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association has expressed its disappointment with Governor Tom Wolf for vetoing legislation that would have eased regulations on the state’s conventional oil and gas wells.
Wolf vetoed SB 790 on Nov. 25, a few days after it passed the Pennsylvania Senate 29-19. The House approved the bill 109-93 in May.
PIOGA explains that Pennsylvania’s current regulatory structure as imposed by Act 13 of 2012 was enacted as a response to the rapid build-out of the unconventional gas industry. Many of its provisions are overkill for shallow oil and gas operations, the association contends, and SB 790 was drafted to address those inequities. While some provisions echo proven requirements established by the original Oil and Gas Act of 1984, many sections of SB 790 go beyond the earlier law to reflect current industry practices, PIOGA notes.
It says the 76-page bill would have regulated all aspects of conventional oil and gas well operations: permitting, bonding, drilling, production, waste disposal, and plugging and abandonment, as well as potential problems such as leaks, spills and damage to water supplies.
Many of SB 790’s provisions recognize the far smaller scale of conventional operations and the diminished potential for environmental impacts, PIOGA points out. One of the inequities the association says it addresses is the industrial-scale site restoration requirements of Act 13.
SB 790 also laid out different requirements for assessing a potential well’s impact on public resources, responding to spills and restoration of water supplies that were damaged or diminished, PIOGA mentions.
It adds the legislation originally would have restored the practice of allowing brine to be spread on dirt roads as a dust suppressant, but this provision was removed as a concession in the House. Another concession was lowering the minimum spill reporting requirement from five to two barrels of oil and from 15 to five barrels of brine.
“While the governor and the Department of Environmental Protection acknowledge the need for separate regulations for the conventional oil and gas industry, they continue to use Act 13 as their building-off point,” comments PIOGA President and Executive Director Dan Weaver. “We are particularly frustrated that the veto was based on a false narrative created by the DEP. The department clams the legislation would roll back protection for drinking water supplies, while in reality the bill mandates that replacement supplies meet Safe Drinking Water Act standards or be comparable to the quality of water prior to impact. No other industry is held to an unreasonable standard that would require an operator to provide an improved water supply.
“The conventional oil and gas industry has operated for more than 160 years in an area of the state that is touted for its pristine natural beauty, and SB 790 would not have changed that,” Weaver holds.