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Township Supervisors Seek Stricter Regulation of Disposal Wells

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

This former gas well in Warren County was permitted by the EPA to be converted to a disposal well. Local residents are fighting it.

The head of the state’s township supervisor’s lobbying organization has come out in favor of greater regulation of deep injection wells. David Sanko, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Townhip Supervisors, recently wrote a letter to Gov. Corbett asking him to adopt measures similar to the state of Ohio.
Deep injection wells that are categorized as Class II take oil and gas wastewater, and dispose of it deep within the earth. Pennsylvania has only six of these wells operating, but several new permits are pending. The EPA oversees permitting of deep injection wells in the state.
After a deep injection well in Youngstown, Ohio caused several earthquakes over the Christmas holidays, Ohio took steps to monitor for seismic activity, reduce injection pressure, and require automatic shut-off devices.
In his letter to Corbett, Sanko says the increase in gas drilling will likely lead to an increase in deep injection wells, and he worries that the EPA is not up to the task of properly permitting these projects.

“In addition, EPA’s recent finding that EPA Region III failed to satisfy its responsibility to ensure the public that it relied on appropriate data as to drinking water wells in the area of proposed Class II injection wells in Columbus Township, Warren County serves to highlight the necessity and importance of ensuring that the Class II wells located in the Commonwealth are adequately regulated.”

Last month, the Environmental Hearing Board in Washington, D.C., rejected a permit for two new deep injection wells in Warren County. The Board told EPA Region 3 they did an inadequate job in surveying drinking water wells in the area. A group of residents worried about potential ground water pollution had appealed the permit.
The state now has six permitted, but only five operating wells. The EPA temporarily shut down one disposal well in Clearfield County after learning of a blow-out several months later.
Although the state has deferred jurisdiction over deep injection wells to federal regulators, Sanko wants Gov. Corbett to ask the EPA to adopt the rules now in use in Ohio. State Rep. Camille “Bud” George, a Democrat from Clearfield County, has introduced legislation to impose a moratorium on all new deep injection wells. But the bill is now stalled in committee.

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