Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently spent some money producing a 7-minute video entitled “Regulating the Natural Gas Industry in Pennsylvania”.
Published on May 7, 2014, DEP staff share their personal experiences conducting the important work of DEP’s Oil and Gas Program across Pennsylvania.
Note: Per the video on YouTube – “Comments are disabled for the video . “ What does that say about DEP wanting to hear from the public?
It begins with April Weiland, Water Quality Specialist Supervisor for DEP. She states that she “loves helping the INDUSTRY as well as the environment, but there’s a misnomer out there when you say you WORK FOR OIL & GAS…”
In the first minute Weiland inadvertently confirms what we suspect – DEP works for the fossil fuel industry. Some comments on FaceBook about the video have said DEP should have spent the money on hiring MORE inspectors instead of wasting money on a fluff video. Possibly this is true, however, who would the additional inspectors be really working for? Would they really be working to protect the environment and by extension would they be protection communities and people? Or as inadvertently confirmed by Weiland, would they be working for Oil & Gas?
Rest of the video is all fluff and no stuff. Despite the title of the video there is nothing in it about how DEP is “regulating” the industry.
We’ve heard over and over again from fossil fuel spokespeople, from DEP, from politicians that Pennsylvania has the “toughest regulations” when it comes to the Oil & Gas industry. What does that mean?
First we need to understand the word “toughest” is a comparative term. There are degrees of toughness. You have tough, tougher and toughest. What is the metric or basis to determine the degree of “toughness”?
Do these “tough” regulations override the exemptions given to the Oil & Gas industry through the 2005 energy bill, also known as the Halliburton Loophole? Efforts in Congress to close, at least portions of the Halliburton Loophole have failed.
- Safe Water Drinking Act: The Energy Policy Act of 2005, clarifies the exclusion of hydraulic fracturing operations from the Safe Drinking Water Act, particularly the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program, which regulates the underground injection of hazardous materials in order to protect the safety of drinking water sources. Since hydraulic fracturing fluids and propping agents are considered a tool of oil and natural gas production rather than a “waste”, they are not regulated by the SDWA. Read a good summary of EPA’s Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing Under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
- Clean Water Act: The EPA does have authority to regulate the disposal of flowback from hydraulic fracturing operations into surface waters under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) of the Clean Water Act. However oil and gas production are exempted, also through the “Haliburton Loophole”, from the stormwater runoff regulations of the Clean Water Act which would otherwise apply to pipelines and well pads, leaving runoff regulation solely to the state.
- Resource Conservation and Recovery Act: The EPA regulates industrial wastes from “cradle to grave”, however flowback wastewater when at the well site or being transported are considered residual wastes rather than hazardous wastes and therefore not regulated.
- National Environmental Policy Act: Environmental impact statements, required by this act, are less stringent for the oil and gas industry due to the “Halliburton Loophole”.
- Toxic Release Inventory: The oil and gas industry are exempt from reporting toxic chemical usage to the EPA.
In February 2014, Colorado regulators approved controls on emissions from oil & natural gas operations after an unusual coalition of energy companies and environmentalists agreed on measures to counter worsening smog.
Emissions from oil and gas operations contribute to thickening smog that exceeds federal ozone guidelines and prompted Governor John Hickenlooper to ask energy companies and environmentalists to come together to write the first-of-their-kind rules.
Among the “environmentalists” represented was the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). EDF has been linked to a number of Oil & Gas interests.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper recorded a 30-second public service announcement for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA). The ad touts Colorado’s “toughest and fairest” hydraulic fracturing rule in the nation, and reminds listeners “we have not had one instance of groundwater contamination associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing, and we plan to keep it that way.”
- COLORADO OIL & GAS ASSOCIATION (COGA) UNDER INVESTIGATION, June 2013
- FRACKINGTALE TELLERS, October 2013
Again we see the comparative terminology with the words “toughest” and “fairest”.
The talking points continue to be repeated and parroted to the question of which state has the “toughest” regulations.
This is the WRONG QUESTION. The question is NOT which state is the toughest when it comes to OiL & Gas regulations.
The correct question to ask is ARE REGULATIONS TOUGH ENOUGH TO PROTECT PEOPLE, COMMUNITIES AND THE ENVIRONMENT?
In Pennsylvania, the answer to that question is a resounding NO. Perhaps this is why the DEP is referred to as Don’t Expect Protection, Department of Energy Protection and/or Department of Energy Production.
PS: Hickenlooper’s statement …..“we have not had one instance of groundwater contamination associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing, and we plan to keep it that way”, receives a big fat D’OH!.
- A 2009 investigation by ProPublica revealed that methane contamination from drilling was widespread, including in Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In several cases, homes blew up after gas seeped into their basements or water supplies.
- Colorado Study Links Methane in Water to Drilling
- Maralex drilling fluids in drinking water
- Colorado and Fracking
©2014 by Dory Hipppauf