New Rules on Natural Gas Wastewater Will Hurt Local Communities, Thompson Says

Aug 29, 2016 Issues: Marcellus Shale, Natural Gas Caucus

Bellefonte, PA –U.S. Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-5), in a letter sent Friday, Aug. 26, expressed concern about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Zero Discharge” rule, which is intended to prevent wastewater from unconventional oil and gas wells from being treated at publically-owned treatment facilities.  In the letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Thompson joined with U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (PA-3) to express concerns that the regulations, as written, would also affect the treatment of wastewater from traditional conventional oil and gas wells.

The lawmakers expressed concern over the definition of an “unconventional” oil and gas well, which are typically associated with the Marcellus and Utica Shale gas drilling industry.  The rule lists a number of Appalachian basins subject to unconventional drilling, including the Devonian, Clinton-Medina and Tuscarora, which have also been produced through conventional oil and gas extraction means over the past several decades.

“In communities across Pennsylvania, water from conventional gas wells is treated at publically-owned facilities,” Thompson said.  “Small towns and townships could miss out on hundreds of thousands of dollars if the EPA doesn’t go back to the drawing board to clear up confusion over this rule.”

As evidence of the rule’s potential impact, Thompson and Kelly pointed to Ridgway, Elk County. Officials there estimated the borough would be denied approximately $630,000 per year should the final rule not be altered.

In writing to the EPA, Thompson and Kelly asked that the Agency provide clarity on this issue and that assurances be provided to publically-owned treatment facilities that they would bear “no additional costs” while a final rule is drafted.  The letter also requests assurance that the rule would not impact wastewater derived through conventional drilling that is currently being treated through existing POTWs.