Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sierra Club Responds to DEP Draft Final Rulemaking for Oil and Gas Operations

August 12, 2015

Joanne Kilgour, Director, Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter, 412-965-9973,
Thomas Au, Conservation Chair, Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter, 717-234-7445

Sierra Club Responds to DEP Draft Final Rulemaking for Oil and Gas Operations

Governor Wolf has promised to ensure that Pennsylvania’s government would be open and transparent  and to regulate oil and gas drilling activities to ensure that operations would be conducted safely. Today, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and DEP Secretary Quigley followed through on the promise of openness and transparency, and announced some of the changes to how it will regulate oil and gas activities.

The Pennsylvania Sierra Club thanks DEP for the thorough and meaningful public participation process that led to this draft final rule, and applauds the administration for taking steps to limit fracking pits and impoundments. “Waste impoundments are a significant pollution threat and create dangerous conditions for public health and the environment,”  Chapter Director Joanne Kilgour stated. “We support provisions that prevent operators from using open pits for storage of dangerous substances, including wastewater, drill cuttings, and substances (like gels and cement) that return to the surface after fracking.  Many spills, leaks, and incidents involving pits have occurred which have contaminated water, soil, and air.”  The regulations will require containment of regulated substances, but does not totally ban open impoundments.

However, the Sierra Club remains concerned that the administration will not keep oil and gas operations at least one mile from schools and playgrounds and will not follow through to regulate noise pollution. The draft final regulations only require drilling activities to be a mere 200 feet from schools and playgrounds.  Schools, playgrounds, medical facilities, and nursing homes are public resources which should be protected from hazardous industrial activities, and in the interest of transparency we will seek a full explanation from DEP for its decision to establish such a small setback.  “Our children and those in need of medical attention require protection from oil and gas operations and  such a small protected area will not be sufficiently protective of their health. We will continue to seek additional protections for schools, playgrounds, and medical facilities.” stated Ms. Kilgour.

“Regulations to protect the public are long overdue”  stated Thomas Au, Conservation Chair for the Pennsylvania Sierra Club. “The degradation of our air, water, and health have been a fact of life since the drilling boom began several years ago. Pennsylvania is long past the time of continued debate on whether oil and gas activities impact health. Instead, there is an urgent need to face realities on the ground and fix critical problems, such as failures to immediately notify public officials of spills and leaks.”

The Sierra Club will continue to work with the administration to adopt oil and gas regulations that are fully protective of the public, and looks forward to the inclusion of public health in future regulatory packages. DEP has received significant input from both the public and the regulated community on these changes, and DEP must be empowered to move quickly to finalize these regulations.


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