Pennsylvania Senators Call for Ban on Toxic Roadway Waste Spraying in Virtual Hearing

Senator MuthSenator Muth (Image via Pennsylvania Senate Democrats)

WEST CHESTER, PA — In a concerted effort to address environmental and public health concerns, Pennsylvania State Senators Katie Muth and Carolyn Comitta hosted a virtual public hearing on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, focusing on the controversial practice of spreading oil and gas wastewater on roadways. Despite a 2018 moratorium by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on this practice for conventional wells, reports have surfaced indicating that over 3.5 million gallons of toxic, radioactive drilling wastewater were disposed of on the state’s roads since the moratorium was enacted.

Senator Katie Muth, chair of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Policy Committee, criticized the ongoing pollution and exploitation of Pennsylvania’s environment, emphasizing the need for more stringent government oversight. “The looting and polluting of Pennsylvania really needs to stop,” Muth stated, highlighting the detrimental effects of such practices on the state’s roadways, environment, and the health of its residents.

At the heart of the issue is a loophole in the current moratorium that allows companies to classify the brine as a coproduct deemed safe for use on roadways. To combat this, Senator Muth has introduced two bills aimed at closing these hazardous waste loopholes. Senate Bill 26 and Senate Bill 28 seek to repeal the exemptions granted to the oil and gas industry and would categorize drilling waste under the Solid Waste Management Act’s definition of “hazardous waste.”

Senator Carolyn Comitta, minority chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, echoed Muth’s sentiments, condemning the practice as harmful and without benefit, serving only to aid drillers in disposing of their toxic byproducts. “Wastewater from oil and gas wells should not be dumped on roadways in Pennsylvania,” Comitta asserted.

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The hearing featured testimonies from various experts and stakeholders, including David Hess, former DEP secretary; Karen Feridun, co-founder of the Better Path Coalition; Dr. William Burgos, Professor at Penn State University; and Siri Lawson, a Warren County resident. Their contributions painted a vivid picture of the negative ramifications associated with the road spreading of oil and gas wastewater.

While the DEP declined to participate in the hearing, they submitted written testimony, reflecting the ongoing dialogue between state agencies, legislators, and the public regarding environmental policy and public health.

This hearing represents a critical step toward legislative action in Pennsylvania, aiming to protect the state’s environment and the well-being of its residents from the hazards posed by the disposal of oil and gas industry byproducts. The proposed bills and the call for an outright ban underscore the growing concern over industrial practices that jeopardize public health and the environment.

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