Advocacy Groups, Concerned Citizens, & Legislators Call on DEP to Extend Comment Period for Shale Gas Waste Permits

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 30, 2021

Contact: Karen Feridun, Better Path Coalition, 610-678-7726, betterpathpa@gmail.com

Advocacy Groups, Concerned Citizens, & Legislators Call on DEP to Extend Comment Period for Shale Gas Waste Permits

Request Specifies 31 Permits for Facilities in 12 Counties

Today, Senator Katie Muth, Representatives Dianne Herrin, Danielle Friel Otten, and Sara Innamorato  joined 46 organizations and more than 80 concerned citizens in calling on the Department of Environmental Protection to extend the comment period for WMGR123 permits announced in the March 20 Pennsylvania Bulletin. Among the 64 open for comment for 60 days are 31 that span 12 counties, many that have no environmental advocacy groups on the ground to inform the public, review the permits, and encourage participation.

The permit “authorizes the processing, transfer and beneficial use of oil and gas liquid waste to develop or hydraulically fracture an oil or gas well,” according to the DEP’s website.

Forty nine of the 64 permits were challenged by advocacy organizations in February after the DEP approved the permits without providing the public an opportunity to comment. Another six are modifications of permits elsewhere on the list. An additional nine permits are for new facilities.

“This is the public’s one chance to comment on permits that will be good for the next decade, if approved. The public deserves the opportunity to comment on their experiences living and working near the facilities whose permits are up for renewal and their concerns about the nine new facilities on the list. Our regulators should make it as easy as possible for people to participate, but because they don’t,  advocacy groups, many of them unstaffed grassroots groups and most of  them operating at some distance from the affected areas need to help the public navigate the process. Here’s just one example. Search WMGR123 on the DEP’s website and the obvious choice will be the first item on the list, called General Permit WMGR123. The problem is that it’s the old permit, not the one approved earlier this year. To find that one, you need to keep searching until you find the listing in DEP Greenport, the one-stop form shop for the industries they serve,” said Karen Feridun, Co-founder, Better Path Coalition.

“It is critical that the public have ample opportunity to review and respond to each and every permit application that impacts their communities,” said Senator Katie Muth (Berks/Chester/Montgomery, 44th SD).  “In some cases, hazardous and radioactive waste will be discharged and has been discharged in the waters of the Commonwealth, without any notice to those impacted.  I am sure many Pennsylvanians who fish in our streams or rely on our rivers for drinking water would have something to say about the state government approving the disposal of fracking waste upstream.  It is only right that we provide an extension of public comment so that every voice can be heard, and that the DEP do its job and protect our air, water, and public health.”

“The impacts of fracking waste on our health are becoming clearer and clearer, and the PA DEP must protect the people of this Commonwealth against these industrial polluters,” said Representative Dianne Herrin (Chester County, 156th District). “It’s time to move away from the current hyper-focus on inflated economic projections put forth by industry and start focusing equally as hard on the consequences that gas and gas product extraction, distribution, and processing have on our health, our communities, and the life-sustaining capacity of the earth. These ‘externalized costs’ are very real and very costly, not only economically but in the most basic terms of human suffering. Extending the comment period for these 31 permit applications, so the impacts of waste handling can be fully understood before decisions are made, is a simple ask.” 

The WMGR123 permit is one of more than 60 permits for the beneficial use of residual waste. The fact that any fracking waste is classified as residual waste and not hazardous waste is concerning enough, but the fact that it can be reused in commercial products like swimming pool tablets is particularly worrying to many Pennsylvanians. All too often, the public must serve as its own watchdog. That takes time.

“If PA DEP can negotiate a special deal with a WMGR123 Shale Gas Waste facility to let them recycle brine to make commercial pool salts to be sold to the public to use in their family pools,  the least Gov Wolf and his PA DEP can do for the public is grant this extension. Marcellus brine is highly radioactive, very salty, chemically laden waste water whose disposal will be a management problem for PA long after the last shale gas wells are installed. These wells require disposal of  “produced” water for their lifetime. Disposal of waste classified by EPA as hazardous is far more expensive than disposal of residual waste; the latter may also be recycled through “beneficial reuse”. The Bevill Amendment allows for cheaper handling and disposal by allowing this hazardous waste to be classified and handled as residual waste; it is recycled not only as “fresh water” for another frac job but also as Clorox Pool Salt for residential pools, ” said Rebecca Roter, Chairperson, Breathe Easy Susquehanna County.

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