Monday, March 11, 2013

Senate Bill 411 Minewater beneficial use




Mine water for beneficial uses.--Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, landowners, mine operators and water pollution abatement project operators that are involved in treating mine drainage or mine pool water from a permitted mining activity site or water pollution abatement project shall not be deemed to assume legal responsibility for or to incur liability with respect to a cost, injury or damage that arises out of or occurs in connection with the use of mine drainage, mine pool water or treated mine water in connection with the hydraulic fracturing process or other development of a gas well, industrial or other water supply or other beneficial use of the water


1. This may have some conflicting language when compared to the Oil and Gas Law and the assume liability that is associated with natural gas development. I may have missed this section, but it would be nice if the law clearly stated this did not resend current provisions and assumed liability related to exiting  Oil and Gas Law.

It does appears the assumed liability provision is limited to only the "Project Operators"- so that once the mine water leaves the site (i.e., the site where the mine water is collected or initially treated) - they, the Project Operators are no longer assumed liable for other uses beyond their control, i.e., liable for the use of the water by the Gas Company for Hydrofracturing.  (Clarification is needed)

A. Land-owner has mine drainage on the property- they or a third party - treat the mine water and then sell or give away to a water company.
B. The water is transported to a site.
C. Industry uses the water for hydraulic fracturing. 

 Think the the limit of liable is intended to only extend to A related to conyence by B and the use by C   This type of liability provision is needed because many of the parties that fit the role of A are either 501 c3, watershed groups or public private partnerships that have nothing to do with the gas company
2. This may require baseline testing be done in these regions to include additional parameters specific to the source and around treatment project sites.
3. It is possible this may result in decreased streamflows downgradient of withdrawal points - I am not sure how the river basin commissions will evaluate and if they may consider the need for a water withdrawal permit and consumption use fees, but I would assume a consumptive water use docket with provisions for treatment and by-pass flow maybe needed.

4. I like the provisions and hopefully this will more forward the use of degraded waters for hydraulic fracturing and help clean up impacted waterways in PA.

5. I do like the provisions, but for some streams baseflow associated with mine drainage may be a significant portion of the flow and it maybe necessary to maintain some by-pass flow with treatment.

6. Hope this encourages public private partnerships to address Acid mine drainage and mine drainage.

7. Would be nice if this program could be applied indirectly to the Northern Fields –No Gas Development, but it would be great to treat and clean the mine drainage and then issue some type of credit.

8. The law looks like it could be applied to discharges and releases of brine water associated with historic oil and gas development and not just mine drainage?  (Clarification is needed)

9. I am not sure of the eligible land provision? Unless this relates to building some type of treatment structure, etc (Water pollution abatement project operator).  (Clarification is needed)
10. The exemptions near the end of the document seem reasonable - I would assume this came from Senator Yaw - Very Nice.

11. I would recommend the Senators that support this document make the necessary clarifications of the intent, but this is something that is needed.  I think this would have been a better approach then all the press releases on the topic. The goal should be to fix issues and get them resolved.   

Brian Oram

Additional Comments
Mine Drainage and/ or Acid Mine Drainage is the result of natural discharges and legacy issues related to the mining of the anthracite and bituminous fields in Pennsylvania.

Over 4,000 miles of streams in Pennsylvania are adversely impacted by mine and/or acid mine drainage. The most cost effective treatment approaches of these problems tend to be a mixture of land-reclamation and passive treatment systems. Many watershed groups and other organizations in Pennsylvania have been active in attempting to minimize the adverse impacts of mine drainage. One main limitation to the effective management and control of these discharges is the significant capital investment to implement the reclamation process and install the passive or semi-passive remediation system, but the largest hurdle is typically the long-term cost of maintaining these systems and liability that is associated with the operations and maintenance of these systems. The Senate Bill creates an opportunity for public and private partnerships to cover the initial cost for the installation of a more rapid and active treatment system and there is then the opportunity to put in place long-term funding for a passive treatment approach.
The Senate Bill has some key liability provisions. These provisions appear to be:

1. Provisions granted to the landowners and operators of the treatment system so they are no liable for the conveyance and ultimate use of the water. This is critical, because a watershed group or small business that is treating the water only and not hauling should not be liable for the conveyance and final use. This liability should rest with the individuals and companies that are transporting and using this water.
2. The proposed bill provides limits of liability associated with downgradient stream conditions. This provision is needed because it is possible that augmenting the flow of the stream by removing mine drainage will likely decrease water levels and flow volumes, but should eliminate the long-term pollution source. Even though it is not stated in this Senate Bill, it is likely that the river basin commission would play a significant role in reviewing consumptive use permits and may require a baseflow of treated water to maintain stream temperature and flow.
Some missing parts
The bill does require more context and specific language; because it appears the bill will extend to historic oil and natural gas development areas. Therefore, it is possible that some of the sites are releasing water that contains a mixture of brine, heavy oil residues, and other fugitive emission.

The bill may not address the status of the “sludge” generated by the remediation efforts. Does this sludge have a beneficial use or is it classified as a solid waste?
The bill does not address the issue of the need for a water withdrawal permit if the water is used for a consumptive water use? There needs to be a balance on the amount of withdrawal because in special cases excess water withdrawal may induce significant surface and subsurface impacts, such as subsidence and mine fire propagation.
This activity should not be conducted in combination with efforts to produce coal-bed methane gas.
Missing provisions for bonding.

POW - Water Treatment System for AMD- contact

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