Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Senate Environment Resources and Energy Committee took up Senate Bill No. 411, designed to foster the use of mine influenced water for hydraulic fracturing and other gas well development. The bill, originally proposed by Senator Richard Kasunic, was unanimously approved by the committee and can now move on to the full Senate.
The bill would amend Pennsylvania’s Environmental Good Samaritan Act (the “Act”) in several respects:
- By expanding or adding definitions under the Act to make clear that projects that withdraw, divert, and use mine influenced waters for fracking or other gas well development, industrial or other water supply, or other beneficial uses, with and in some cases without treatment, are eligible for the protections of the Act;
- By expanding the scope of immunity afforded under the Act to include such projects, as well as limiting the legal liability of landowners, mine operators, and water pollution abatement project operators involved in treating mine influenced water from such projects for any costs, injury or damages resulting from the approved uses;
- By exempting the operators and backers of such projects from certain requirements or liabilities under the Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act, the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act, the Solid Waste Management Act, and the Clean Streams Law; and
- By modifying existing exceptions to the immunity afforded under the Act to clarify that those exceptions would not apply to those who use, allow the use of, or provide mine influenced waters as part of a water pollution abatement project for fracking or other gas well development, industrial or other water supply, or other beneficial uses.
S.B. 411 still has a long way to go before it, or some further amended version, winds up on the Governor’s desk. But on the heels of PA DEP’s recent White Paper (PDF), which I blogged about last month, it appears that the use of mine influenced waters in fracking and gas well development has bipartisan traction in the state Senate. We will continue monitoring the bill and will provide further updates as the legislative process unfolds.