News Feature | April 12, 2017

Amid Fracking And Trump, Pennsylvania Faces Water Protection Questions

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

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A Pennsylvania state law requiring that public water systems be informed of nearby gas drilling spills saw its downfall late last month.

The state’s Supreme Court had given the legislature six months to implement a notification requirement for private wells in September 2016. If the legislature did not comply, it would “see that portion of Act 13, the law governing Pennsylvania's shale industry, disappear,” according to Pennlive.com.

The Republican leadership existing in both chambers thought over the choice given to them by the court. However, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) “plans to continue its notifications of public water systems, despite losing the statutory mandate.”

"We need to have a formal statutory obligation," Sen. John Yudichak, Democrat of Luzerne County, told Pennlive. "Administrations change. Department secretaries change. We want to make sure that provision is in there."

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, Democrat from Allegheny County, said that discussions focused on how to restore the water notification requirement were presently happening.

"I need to go back and take the temperature of our caucus again," he said.

According to Philly.com, “President Trump's proposal to slash 31 percent of the U.S. EPA’s budget could eventually be magnified in a sort of double whammy to clean air and water safeguards in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.”

Environmental budgets have been slashed over the years in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, forcing the states to rely heavily on federal funding to assist them, according to Philly.com.

“All we know at this point is that it appears to be very bad,” said David Hess, a former DEP commissioner. “It’s a very nasty situation. The DEP is caught in this squeeze.”

PennLive reported that in order for some sort of deal to be worked out for the water notification systems, Republican leadership is needed and without it, a deal is not likely.

Another possibility would be “a restoration of the notification requirement for public water supplies in a different section of the law.” However, such a thing would ignore the decision made by the Supreme Court.

To read more about gas drilling spills visit Water Online’s Produced Water Treatment Solutions Center.

Image credit: "DrillBit, May 2005" Mark © 2005 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/