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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: December 5, 2022 04:52 PM
From: Senator Katie J. Muth
To: All Senate members
Subject: Protecting Pennsylvania's Drinking Water Supply: Expanding Spill Notification Requirements
I will soon reintroduce legislation that intends to provide a protection for private well owners that was omitted from the 2012 version of the Oil and Gas Act; Act 13. This was previously SB 971 from the 2021-2022 session.

In the event of a spill of chemicals, waste, or other substances associated with the fracking process, Act 13’s section 3218.1 required Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), to notify only public drinking water facilities that could be affected, and excluded notification of owners of private wells which supply drinking water.

As part of its September 2016 ruling in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that the DEP could not be subject to such a limitation and referenced a study that showed over three million Pennsylvania residents get their drinking water from private wells. The Court expressed concern that private well owners’ “health, or even their property, may be at risk as the result of a spill that has potentially jeopardized the safety of the water they consume.” 

Being unable to change the law, the Court mandated that the General Assembly create a legislative remedy for this serious transgression within 180 days. The legislature failed to meet this mandate, and in fact did nothing, with the result that the Court struck the entire notification provision (including notice to public well owners) and more than 5 years later, there is no requirement for DEP to notify public or private well owners of spills that could potentially endanger drinking water.  

This legislation would implement the 2016 mandate from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and create a long overdue requirement that the DEP must notify both public and private well owners of spills that could affect their water supply.  

Please join me in cosponsoring this important legislation to help protect the health and property of private well owners. 

Introduced as SB92