Pennsylvania bill promotes use of treated mine water in fracking

closeup of the facilities of a coal industry
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A new bill that would help reduce the use of fresh water in natural gas drilling operations by promoting the use of treated mine water was introduced last Wednesday by Pennsylvania Republican senator Camera Bartolotta.

In recent years, drilling companies have significantly reduced their reliance on water from Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams by adopting the environmentally responsible practice of treating and reusing mine water for their operations. However, uncertainties regarding liability issues have prevented some companies from utilizing this innovative approach.

Using mine water in hydraulic fracturing has been a controversial issue as – in the past – some companies have been known to use untreated water that leaked from abandoned mines into rivers and streams. However, the treated mine water has been put through the existing remediation process which removes some metals and the acidity, followed by an ion-based system to extract sulfates and metals such as iron from the acid mine drainage. The result is clean water that can be used in fracturing operation in an environmentally-safe way.

Bartolotta’s bill would promote the beneficial use of treated mine water in oil and gas operations by clarifying liabilities associated with this water source – thereby removing any uncertainties about any liabilities faced by the drilling companies.

“Since both of these industries require the use of millions of gallons of water, using treated mine water in the natural gas drilling process holds the potential to substantially reduce the withdrawal demand placed upon Pennsylvania’s waterways,” Bartolotta said. “Questions regarding legal liability are the most serious barrier preventing more companies from utilizing this innovative process. My legislation would help clear up any confusion relating to liability.”

Bartolotta emphasized that her legislation would not weaken environmental safeguards designed to protect public health.

“Existing water treatment standards ensure this water source is safe to use in the natural gas drilling process,” Bartolotta said. “Nothing in the bill would undermine existing laws pertaining to water quality and treatment for mine operators or gas and oil companies. It only clarifies the parties who would be financially responsible for failure to comply with the law.”

The bill was welcomed by the Marcellus Shale Coalition – the drilling industry’s trade group in Pennsylvania, counting 40 energy companies as their members – whose president, Dave Spigelmyer, said: “While we’re still reviewing this legislation, commonsense approaches like this reflect innovative solutions that shale producers are leveraging across the Commonwealth aimed at enhancing our environment.”

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