PennEnvironment Applauds Approval of New Regulations to Reduce Marcellus Shale Polution

HARRISBURG – PennEnvironment applauded the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC), a state regulatory agency, for voting to approve new and much-needed water quality regulations today. The new rule would establish stringent pollution standards to protect Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers from Marcellus Shale gas drilling contamination. 

“PennEnvironment applauds IRRC for moving forward with this critical action to protect our rivers and streams from the effects of gas drilling wastewater, said Erika Staaf, Clean Water Advocate with PennEnvironment. “PennEnvironment believes the regulations will be an important step in ensuring that Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams remain clean and safe, and that drinking water sources throughout the Commonwealth are protected.”

During its public comment period, over 3,700 concerned Pennsylvanians submitted comments supporting these rules, or stronger standards.

“Drilling in the Marcellus Shale gas reserve comes with new and significant challenges, not the least of which is how to protect our waterways and handle the harmful wastewater this drilling produces,” said Staaf. “We are encouraged to see IRRC heed the public’s input and approve these important clean water rules.”

The new regulation will help protect the Commonwealth’s rivers and streams by instituting a number of requirements for pollutants that are currently released into Pennsylvania’s waterways as a byproduct of the gas drilling process. Facilities discharging oil and gas wastewater will now have to comply with discharge standards for Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) of 500 mg/L, sulfates and chlorides standards of 250 mg/L and barium and strontium standards of 10 mg/L. TDS are dissolved materials or contaminants (toxic metals and organic pollutants) in the water that can have a negative affect on the health of aquatic life and the quality of water supplies, by making it saltier, harder and more toxic.

In 2008 and 2009, TDS levels exceeded drinking water standards along the Monongahela River, a major source of drinking water for roughly 325,000 residents near Pittsburgh. Officials believe that these exceedances were partially caused by the improper discharge of gas drilling wastewater.

The rules will now be considered by the Environmental Resources and Energy committees in the state House and Senate. The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee voted on June 8th to delay making a decision on the rule until 14 days after approval by IRRC.

“The regulation has been fully vetted by the public and multiple state agencies,” said Staaf. “We urge the House and Senate committees to move forward in approving this important regulation as soon as possible.”

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