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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: December 10, 2020 01:30 PM
From: Senator Katie J. Muth
To: All Senate members
Subject: Protecting public health and ensuring fairness by closing Pennsylvania’s hazardous oil and gas waste loophole
In the near future, I will be reintroducing companion legislation to that of Representative Innamorato which would protect public health and ensure fairness by closing Pennsylvania's hazardous oil and gas waste loophole. 

Due to a shortsighted exemption made thirty years ago, Pennsylvanians are exposed daily to potentially toxic and radioactive waste produced by the oil and gas industry. This loophole allows oil and gas companies to skip hazardous waste testing, tracking and disposal rules even though their wastes “contain a wide variety of hazardous components,” thus giving the industry an unfair advantage over other industries and pushing responsibility for the consequences to health and the environment onto residents, communities, and taxpayers of the Commonwealth.
Oil and gas wastewater contain proprietary chemical additives, hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and salts that can be toxic to humans and the environment. Recently, researchers discovered accumulations of radium up to 650 times higher in river sediments where treated conventional oil and gas wastewater was discharged than levels detected at sampling locations directly upstream.
Yet drilling waste is insufficiently treated as “residual waste” under the PA Solid Waste Management Act (SWMA), which excludes oil and gas companies from the requirement to thoroughly test or treat waste prior to disposal in municipal landfills or wastewater treatment facilities in our communities that discharge this waste in our waterways.  As a consequence, the toxins and radioactive material in drilling waste ends up in our water supplies, and workers hauling the waste have been sickened by exposure to radioactive elements.
The decision to exempt these companies from the Solid Waste Management Act (SWMA) was a mistake.
These two pieces of legislation offer simple solutions. The first would repeal the language under Title 58 that exempts the oil and gas industry from complying with the provisions of this law. The second would include drilling waste in the SWMA’s definition of “hazardous waste”. 
By making these changes, we will finally prioritize the health of our citizens, workers, and environment over companies who make billions of dollars from our communities’ natural resources, privatizing the profits and socializing the risk.
Please join me in sponsoring this important, common-sense legislation. 

Document #1

Introduced as SB644

This legislation repeals the language under Title 58 that exempts the oil and gas industry from complying with the provisions of the Solid Waste Management Act (SWMA). This was previously SB1353 of the 2019-2020 session. 

Document #2

Introduced as SB645

Description: This legislation would include drilling waste in the SWMA’s definition of “hazardous waste”. This was previously SB1354 of the 2019-2020 session.