On March 20, 2015, LAMPa held a conference call on water issues, focusing on four primary areas of concern, detailed below. Those assembled expressed the greatest interest in learning more about and working on storm water and fracking-related water issues. Watch for upcoming conference call opportunities as we continue to learn more and develop advocacy plans, and add to resources below.
1. Natural Gas Development and Transportation
Review of recent federal legislative efforts:
- The FRAC Act would close the Halliburton Loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) that exempts fracking from protections for underground sources of drinking water unless diesel is used in fracking fluid. It will allow EPA to protect drinking water from contamination caused by fracking and require disclosure of fracking chemicals to the public.
- The FRESHER Act would close the loophole in the Clean Water Act (CWA) that endangers water quality near oil and gas production activities. The CWA is the foundational law that protects American rivers, streams, wetlands, and other waterways from pollution. Under the CWA, a permit is required for large-scale, ground-disturbing activities that increase stormwater runoff and water pollution. This requirement, however, has been waived for oil and gas production.
- The CLEANER Act would close the loophole in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) that currently allows toxic wastes from oil and natural gas production to avoid hazardous waste requirements. RCRA requires the safe handling, transport and disposal of hazardous wastes. In the 1980s, however, Congress exempted wastes from oil and gas exploration and production from RCRA’s requirements. As a result, oil and gas wastes are subject to a patchwork of inadequate state regulations, leading to the mismanagement of these dangerous materials.
- The SHARED Act would require testing of water sources near planned oil and gas operations before fracking begins, in order to establish baseline water quality conditions. Baseline testing is essential for an effective water protection regime.
Overview of state issues
- Impacts to water from pipelines and well pads. Chapter 78a regulations and comments period
- Runoff, fragmentation, impacts to headwaters.
- Cumulative impacts of Susquehanna River Basin Commission.
- Oil trains are an emerging issue. Sixty to eighty trains carrying a million gallons of flammable crude oil pass through Pennsylvania each week in and near towns and cities and waterways. Access this interactive map to see routes through Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania has a wealth of water, but development and land use have radically altered the natural systems that manage rainfall runoff into surface waters—leading to everything from poor water quality to flooding, erosion, and droughts. When the amount of rain falling exceeds the land’s ability to absorb it, the result is stormwater runoff. The volume of runoff and rate at which it flows varies with the intensity and duration of the rainfall—and with the type of land surface upon which it falls. Without treatment, most of the stormwater that runs from the land into our waterways is unhealthy for people and bad for the environment. Runoff can carry chemicals, metals, bacteria, viruses, organic compounds, and other pollutants directly into creeks, lakes, rivers, and streams. And, stormwater runoff can cause severe erosion and flooding—even during a typical Pennsylvania storm.
Stormwater pollution is on the rise in Pennsylvania. There are opportunities to become involved in the MS4s permitting process for municipalities and to be part of public education campaigns, including the importance of rain gardens, bioswales and green infrastructure.
3. WOTUS – Waters of the U.S. Rule (EPA)
This proposed rule clarifies that under the Clean Water Act:
• Most seasonal and rain-dependent streams are protected.
• Wetlands near rivers and streams are protected.
• Other types of waters may have more uncertain connections with downstream water and protection will be evaluated through a case specific analysis of whether the connection is or is not significant.
Approximately 117 million people- one in three Americans- get drinking water from public systems that rely on seasonal, rain-dependent, and headwater streams, including 8 million Pennsylvanians.
4. Standards for drinking water well construction
PA is one of only 2 states that lack statewide regulations for private well construction. 3 million residents rely on roughly 1 million wells for water.
In 2014, the PA House passed HB 343, which required the EQB to develop and approve regulations to establish construction and decommissioning standards.
A similar bill will be introduced this year. The PA Groundwater Assoc, state association of well drillers and the natural gas industry support these standards.
Water, Holy Water an Earth Day 2014 resource from Creation Justice Ministries including educational materials, worship resources and sermon starters.
ELCA Walk for Water campaign page