Use of mine drainage in drilling operations endorsed by state officials
State environmental regulators are willing to sign legal agreements with gas companies to help them use mine drainage in drilling operations without the risk of long-term problems, according to a guidance paper the state issued on Wednesday.
State officials want to encourage the use of mine drainage in drilling to help clean up that statewide water pollutant and issued a long-awaited eight-page document to detail the process.
Drilling companies have been hesitant to take long-term cleanup responsibilities, but they can avoid that and fund the work by coordinating with nonprofit groups and treatment plant owners, and by taking advantage of consent agreements with the Department of Environmental Protection and “Good Samaritan” provisions in state environmental law, the paper states.
More than 300 million gallons of water are discharged from abandoned coal mines each day, impairing more than 5,500 miles of Pennsylvania waterways.
“Abandoned mines present Pennsylvania with one of its biggest environmental challenges,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said in a statement announcing the paper, for which advocates had been waiting more than a year.
“This initiative, which combines remediating abandoned mine water with responsible extraction of our natural gas resources, is a win for our environment and our economy,” Krancer said.
While it may sound counterintuitive to use polluted water in drilling operations, environmental advocates have been pushing it for more than two years. Mine drainage harms thousands of miles of Pennsylvania waterways; if drillers used it in deep-shale, hydraulic-fracturing jobs, most of that water would end up trapped far underground or in drilling companies' recycled water systems, advocates claim.
Drillers may use only a fraction of the mine drainage, but much of it is in the heart of drilling land, meaning society will benefit from fewer truck trips and the impact of mass transport, said University of Pittsburgh professor Radisav D. Vidic, one of the plan's biggest backers.
“It's great that the DEP is moving in that direction,” Vidic said. “Somebody from the industry legal department is going to have to look at it and see if it absolves them of legal obligation. There's still a sentiment that if you touch it, you own it.”
Advocates had warned two years ago that if the state did not act fast, drilling companies would invest in easy river access for long-term water supplies and would be less likely to seek water sources like mine drainage.
Range Resources Corp. and Consol Energy Inc. spokesmen said on Wednesday that they are still reviewing the guidance paper.
“We have ample water access through our Ohio River infrastructure and transportation system, as well as our recycling program,” said Matt Pitzarella, the Cecil-based Range Resources spokesman. “But anything that makes water sourcing more accessible and in a manner that allows us to continue to improve the environment is a good step forward.”
Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Peduto blasts Wolf’s plan to borrow $3B to shore up pensions
- Derry boy recovering at home after high-profile intestinal transplant
- School credit ratings a problem for several in Western Pennsylvania
- Newsmaker: Stephanie McMahon
- Rising East Liberty out of reach for Pittsburgh’s poor
- Pittsburgh is planning to add network of bike lanes through Oakland
- Thief’s attorney blames Rivers Casino; judge isn’t swayed
- W.Va. authorities charge 87 with drug trafficking
- Judge adds 2 years to sentence of Baldwin Borough man acquitted of murder
- $1B rapid bridge replacement across Pa. aims for savings, safety
- Newsmaker: Megan Cicconi