URGENT – Call your Senator tomorrow morning! Oppose SB411, the Acid Mine Drainage in Fracking Bill.
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP!
- We need to FLOOD our senators’ offices with calls starting first thing on Monday! The bill could go to the floor as early as 1 p.m.! Find your senator’s contact information here!
- Facebook and Twitter users, we have started a Thunderclap directed at the PA Senate that will be delivered at noon tomorrow. A Thunderclap is a message that is posted at an appointed time from a lot of FB and Twitter accounts. When you sign up to participate, you are granting permission to have the message I’ve written posted at noon from your account – one message posted once. The more people we get, the louder the noise we make! Sign up here!
- Facebook users, change your profile picture to the one I’m using for the next day.Find my profile here! It’s called a Facebook march. Believe me, Senators are on FB and notice when the same profile picture shows up over and over again in their news feed! You’ll also find memes you can share on my profile page or the event page.
- Share this information with all your friends and ask them to call their senators too! As of the latest vote count I received, there were TWO confirmed NO votes and they weren’t from our local senators.
This is an emergency.
Below are points from the Delaware Riverkeeper Network that briefly explain this bad bill which would allow Acid Mine Drainage water to be used in place of fresh water in fracking in PA. This practice would simply spread polluted water from coal mines into our aquifers and into the fracking business, it is being described as a “beneficial activity” but is really a perversion of the PA Environmental Good Samaritan Act, and it provides immunity to drillers for doing so.
The Bill, with recently added amendments that are not yet voted on but which do not make the bill acceptable in our opinion, is attached. Please email or call your Senator TODAY and tomorrow morning, first thing. Bill is expected to be voted on tomorrow. To find your Senator: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/
What is SB 411? SB 411 is a proposed amendment to Pennsylvania’s Environmental Good Samaritan Act (“Act”). It seeks to provide expanded immunity for entities who withdraw, divert, and use abandoned mine drainage (“AMD”) in gas well development, agricultural and industrial applications, and other “beneficial uses”.
What is Abandoned (or Acid) Mine Drainage (AMD)? AMD is polluted water that flows out of abandoned coal mines, and is a legacy left behind by Pennsylvania’s coal industry. Mine drainage composition can vary, but AMD often contains high levels of metals (such as iron and manganese), high acidity or alkalinity, total dissolved solids (“TDS”), or sulfate.
What is the Environmental Good Samaritan Act (“the Act”)? The Act seeks to encourage voluntary reclamation of AMD and abandoned or orphaned oil and gas wells. To encourage voluntary reclamation, the Act limits the liability of those who engage in such reclamation. This immunity is designed to avoid the environmental equivalent of “no good deed goes unpunished.”
What Are Some of the Concerns with SB 411?
- It is not clear why any amendment to the Act is necessary. DEP has stated that projects proposing AMD withdrawal and use can fit under the existing Act, and that it has received such applications.
- Proposed language for SB 411 could result in expansive immunity even for those companies responsible for AMD pollution and abandoned oil and gas wells in the first place.
- SB 411 would create expansive immunity for gas well operators, manufacturing plants, and agricultural entities who use AMD in their operations, as well as any practically any other entity who uses AMD.
- SB 411 would extend broad immunity to end-users of AMD (including gas well development or manufacturing facilities) who cause damage to adjacent landowners or downstream riparian owners.
- It would prevent workers and all others who are injured by an AMD end-user’s operations from holding accountable those responsible for the injuries they cause.
- SB 411 would also extend such immunity to environmental violations, even after the AMD’s chemistry and composition changes in the AMD end-user’s process, such as during hydraulic fracturing.
- Unlike the existing Act, end-users of AMD would receive immunity without doing anything to remedy the source of AMD pollution.
- SB 411 would allow AMD withdrawal for a wide range of uses, including gas well development, industrial and agricultural applications, even if the withdrawal would make the AMD water pollution worse.
- It would encourage moving polluted water into unpolluted higher-quality watersheds, while protecting end-users from responsibility for pollution they cause in those areas.
- It would exempt AMD project funders from responsibility for even acts of gross negligence, willful misconduct, and unlawful activities; this exemption could protect investors (such as a joint venture) in oil and gas development activities that use AMD.
- SB 411 would not eliminate the harm caused by high-volume water withdrawals that occur to support hydraulic fracturing.
This Bill goes against public interests and will result in water quality harms, undermining the very goals of the Environmental Good Samaritan Act.
From the Delaware Riverkeeper Network
Here’s the letter the undersigned organizations sent to the PA Senate:
We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to express our opposition to SB 411.
SB411 would amend the Environmental Good Samaritan Act (EGSA) and extend immunity for those involved in withdrawing Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) in connection with oil and gas operations and other uses offsite. The bill does not promote the reduction and abatement of AMD pollution and does not clean up streams that are presently impacted by AMD. SB411 would incentivize the spread of AMD-polluted water to other streams and watersheds in Pennsylvania and harm streams and communities through the depletion of water supplies and healthy flows in these vulnerable waterways.
SB411 is not an environmentally beneficial bill; it is quite the opposite. It is no more than an attempt to provide immunity to those who do no more than withdraw and sell AMD for a profit and would do nothing to clean up pollution. This undermines the EGSA and its core purpose of facilitating the cleanup of AMD by providing immunity to those entities who are remedying the AMD problem.
Although proponents of SB411 suggest that that bill would reduce the stress on fresh water supplies that are being depleted by water consumptive natural gas development and other depletive applications while also addressing AMD pollution, it actually works at cross purposes on both counts. SB411 does not require the cleanup of AMD. Rather, SB 411 would spread AMD pollution around, and could lead to depletion of healthy stream flows and aquifers through extensive water withdrawals in AMD-impacted areas. In western Pennsylvania waterways without basin commission jurisdiction, over-pumping is even more likely due to lack of a specific body of regulation with established water withdrawal limits; this is also where many AMD problems exist and many residents are dependent on private water wells. The effect would not benefit the state’s residents, water supplies, or environment.
The result of extensive withdrawals could be costly for landowners who lose water supplies or whose water quality is degraded. This is because the bill’s provisions regarding damaged water supplies would force landowners to hire expensive expert analysis just to prove that a water withdrawal company caused damage to their water supply. For instance, extensive water withdrawal from mine pools by the over-pumping of groundwater can cause adjacent clean groundwater to be drawn in, depleting regional water wells and reducing the healthy base flow of local streams. This would deplete drinking water and harm downstream water supplies, fish and aquatic life. Over-withdrawal of groundwater could lead to land subsidence as well, but there is no statutory remedy for subsidence damage, leaving landowners without a remedy against the operator.
In summary, we ask you to oppose SB 411. SB 411 can be expected to result in a more wide-spread AMD pollution problem, deplete clean fresh aquifers through over-pumping, and threaten the rights of downstream riparian owners. It also offers no benefits except to operators who will profit off selling AMD-impacted water. SB411 works against the very goals of the EGSA and the protection of the Commonwealth’s fresh water resources, a “lose-lose” for Pennsylvanians.
Allegheny Defense Project, Ryan Talbott, Executive Director
Berks Gas Truth, Karen Feridun, Founder
Center for Coalfield Justice, Patrick Grenter, Esq., Executive Director
Citizens for Water, Joe Levine, Director
Clean Water Action – Pennsylvania, Steve Hvozdovich, Marcellus Shale Coordinator
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Barbara Arrindell, Director
Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director
Earthworks, Nadia Steinzor, Eastern Program Coordinator
Food and Water Watch, Pennsylvania Coordinator, Sam Bernhardt
Green Party of Pa, Jay Sweeney, Chair
Green Party of York County, Steve Izzo, Delegate
League of Women Voters of PA, Susan Carty, President and Betty Tatham, Vice President, Issues and Action
Marcellus Outreach – Butler, Michael Bagdes-Canning, Planning Group Member
Mountain Watershed Association, Beverly Braverman, Executive Director
NYH2O, Buck Moorhead, Chair
PA Forest Coalition, Richard A. Martin, Coordinator
Paradise Gardens and Farm, J. Stephen Cleghorn, PhD
Peach Bottom Concerned Citizens Group, Maria Payan, Executive Director, York County, PA
PennEnvironment, David Masur, Executive Director
Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air, Jenny Lisak, Co-director
Protecting Our Waters, Iris Marie Bloom, Executive Director and Coryn Wolk, Deputy Director
Responsible Drilling Alliance, Robert Cross, Board President
Shale Justice Coalition, John Trallo, Executive Committee
Transition York, Steve Izzo
Upper Burrell Citizens Against Marcellus Pollution, Ron Slabe, Debra Borowiec, Co-founders
Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens Group, Jan Milburn, President
Youghiogheny Riverkeeper, Krissy Kasserman
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