HARRISBURG – State Rep. Camille “Bud” George, D-74 of Clearfield County, said he has introduced legislation that would provide a two-year moratorium on the drilling of new deep injection wells in Pennsylvania, as well as provide better water protection for future wells after the moratorium expires.
“I have received calls and e-mails about this issue for months,” George said. “People are concerned about their water and the potential dangers associated with injection wells.”
House Bill 2350, known as the Injection Well Safe Water Act, was introduced today after last minute changes were implemented to reflect the recent earthquakes in Ohio that have been linked to deep injection wells.
At least eight injection wells exist in Pennsylvania, and an injection well has been proposed in Brady Township, Clearfield County, to dispose of industrial gas drillers’ waste from the Marcellus shale play. Roughly two dozen applications across the state are pending.
George said only injection wells drilled for the disposal of waste from oil- or natural-gas-related drilling would be affected by his legislation.
“My bill provides for a two-year moratorium on the drilling of any new injection wells used for disposing of oil or gas waste,” George said. “The bill will not affect existing wells. However, any wells drilled after Jan. 1 of this year, including the well proposed in Brady Township, would not be allowed to accept the drilling waste.”
The measure also will contain other water protection measures that will remain in effect after the moratorium expires.
Included in George’s bill is a 2,000-foot setback from private water supplies, unless consent is granted by the owner of the private water well, as well as a 5,500-foot setback from public water supplies.
The bill bans the deep waste-disposal wells in floodplains and provides a 2,000-foot setback from trout streams and High Quality/Exceptional Value waterways.
To address the earthquake issues in Ohio, which have been blamed on injection wells near Youngstown, George included a provision in his bill that mandates a 2,000-foot setback from known geologic fault lines.
“Hydraulic fracturing fluid used in Marcellus shale drilling acts as a lubricant underground,” George said. “When this fluid is injected into the ground near fault lines, such as in Youngstown, it can trigger shifts in the ground that cause earthquakes.”
George said that similar to Youngstown, geologic fault lines run through the Brady Township area where a well has been proposed.
“Besides my setbacks from known fault lines, I place other restrictions that will make these wells safer overall,” George said. “Ohio has recently adopted new regulations to address this issue, and we should do the same.”
Other provisions include a continuous pressure monitoring system at the injection wells, automatic shut-off systems when the pressure exceeds its maximum level, and electronic data recording systems for purposes of tracking all fluids brought to the well for injection.
“Communities cannot exist without fresh water,” George said. “We must do everything possible to ensure the integrity and protection of our drinking water supplies.
“Though unplanned, the timing of the introduction of my bill in uncanny, as today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $159,000 settlement with EXCO Resources regarding failed mechanical integrity at a disposal well in Bell Township,” George said.
“The company had failed to comply with federal mechanical integrity standards, placing underground sources of drinking water at risk,” he said.
George, who serves as Democratic chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, urged citizens to push their legislators to support the bill.
“This is a statewide issue that deserves statewide attention,” George said. “If enough people join me in support of House Bill 2350, we can push this bill all the way to the governor’s desk.”