Senate bill is a sneak attack to weaken drilling regulations

HARRISBURG, July 12 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, said a bill that passed the Senate yesterday would weaken the regulations on unconventional oil and gas drillers.

Specifically, the new language in the bill, S.B. 1229, would make three critical changes to the regulations, including limiting the reporting requirements for waste production from oil and gas drilling from once a month to twice a year.

Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said reducing reporting requirements will make it more difficult for the Department of Environmental Protection to ensure that waste is being disposed of properly.

The bill also would increase the amount of time (from nine to 24 months) unconventional oil and gas drillers have to restore well sites, which will delay when a landowner can put the land to productive use, Vitali said.

Lastly, the bill stops DEP from issuing adequate standards for the construction of fresh water storage impoundments for oil and gas operations.

Vitali argued that adequate standards are important because a breach of water could jeopardize the health of nearby residents and pollute local streams.

The regulations were fully vetted, having been subject to 12 public hearings and nearly 28,000 public comments, but this language that Vitali said weakens the regulations was added at the last minute in to an unrelated bill on horse breeding.

“This last minute sneak attack on the unconventional gas and oil drilling regulations is the type of deception that upsets the public,” Vitali said. “It is a slap in the face to the people who took the time to attend the hearings or submit comments on the regulations.”

Vitali also said that this action by the Senate violates the agreement the General Assembly made with Gov. Tom Wolf when he agreed to cancel the regulations on conventional drillers but advance the regulations on unconventional drillers.

“This bill circumvents the regulatory process and reneges on a deal with the governor in an effort to weaken the already compromised drilling regulations,” Vitali said.

The bill could come up for a vote in the House at any time so Vitali urges his colleagues to vote against it.