A bill aimed at encouraging the use of abandoned mine drainage for fracking is moving forward in Harrisburg.
On Monday the state Senate Appropriations committee approved the measure which amends Pennsylvania’s Environmental Good Samaritan Act. The bill would limit liability for natural gas drillers who use the polluted water.
It’s an incentive sought after by the natural gas industry, but opposed by many environmental groups.
“It incentivizes taking polluted water and moving it to unpolluted watersheds without requiring anything be done to clean it up – and that’s a bad thing,” said Jordan Yeager, an environmental lawyer who has represented the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, one environmental group opposing the legislation.The bill eases the liability for anyone using the drainage water for “beneficial purposes,” which the bill defines as any use of water for a purpose that results in an economic or environmental benefit, including use by an industrial or commercial facility following state laws.
Drillers want to use the acid mine drainage to frack wells – and some already do – but many are reluctant to do so because of potential liabilities associated with the clean up of the constant source of pollution. Acid mine drainage, caused by past mining activities, contains highly acidic water containing heavy metals and has contaminated over 4,000 miles of Pennsylvania waterways, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The bill moved to the floor unamended on a 16-9 committee vote. Four Democrats and five Republicans voted against the bill. Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, originally voted in favor of the bill, but asked for a reconsideration of the vote and switched to oppose the bill.
As StateImpact Pennsylvania reported last year, companies like Seneca Resources are already using abandoned mine drainage to frack,