Thompson, Lawmakers Seek Assurances on Potentially Harmful EPA Wastewater Rule

BELLEFONTE – U.S. Reps. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-5), Mike Kelly (PA-3) and Keith Rothfus (PA-12) on Monday wrote to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, regarding the “Zero Discharge” rule.

This regulation, which went into effect in August, creates new federal standards for the discharge of wastewater derived from “unconventional oil and gas” at publically-owned treatment works (POTWs).

The letter asks EPA to ensure that conventional oil and gas production, which has occurred in Pennsylvania for generations, will not be subject to the new rules.

Thompson and Kelly had previously written to the EPA to express concern that the regulation, as written, would affect the treatment of wastewater from traditional conventional oil and gas wells.

In both letters, 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 also lists a number of Appalachian basins subject to unconventional drilling, including the Devonian, Clinton-Medina and Tuscarora formations, which have also been produced through conventional oil and gas extraction means over the past several decades.

“If the EPA does not clarify that this new regulation will not apply to water from conventional oil and gas wells, it could result in revenue losses for small towns and municipalities throughout Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District,” said Thompson.

“Losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue generated from wastewater treatment would be catastrophic to those publicly-owned facilities,” Thompson added.

“The loss of revenue from treating conventional oil and gas wastewater is equal to one half of our borough’s general fund budget,” said Ridgway Borough Manager Paul McCurdy.

“The three-year implementation schedule for this rule is a step in the right direction and we will continue to work to address the other inconsistencies in this rule to make sure traditional oil and gas wastewater is not affected.”

The lawmakers added that clarity on the issue of conventional gas well wastewater is essential, especially in light of the EPA’s statement that it “does not project the proposed rule will impose any costs.

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