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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Pennsylvania oil and gas companies: Feel free to pollute (unless you plan to pollute)

The Republican salvation of Pennsylvania has begun.  Clean-water enthusiast Don Williams brought this bit of news to light on his blog this morning:




SENATE BILL No. 305
Session of 2011

INTRODUCED BY M. WHITE, ORIE, FOLMER, ERICKSON, VOGEL, D. WHITE, MENSCH, EARLL, PICCOLA AND BAKER, JANUARY 27, 2011

REFERRED TO ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES AND ENERGY, JANUARY 27, 2011

AN ACT
Amending the act of June 22, 1937 (P.L.1987, No.394), entitled, as amended, "An act to preserve and improve the purity of the waters of the Commonwealth for the protection of public health, animal and aquatic life, and for industrial consumption, and recreation; empowering and directing the creation of indebtedness or the issuing of non-debt revenue bonds by political subdivisions to provide works to abate pollution; providing protection of water supply and water quality; providing for the jurisdiction of courts in the enforcement thereof; providing additional remedies for abating pollution of waters; imposing certain penalties; repealing certain acts; regulating discharges of sewage and industrial wastes; regulating the operation of mines and regulating the impact of mining upon water quality, supply and quantity; placing responsibilities upon landowners and land occupiers and to maintain primary jurisdiction over surface coal mining in Pennsylvania," in domestic water supplies, providing for permits relating to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hereby enacts as follows:

Section 1. The act of June 22, 1937 (P.L.1987, No.394), known as The Clean Streams Law, is amended by adding a section to read:

Section 504. Permits relating to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.--Except as otherwise provided under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (62 Stat. 1155, 33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq.) or Federal regulation, the department shall not require, consistent with section 402(l)(2) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (62 Stat. 1155, 33 U.S.C. § 1342(l)(2)), a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for a storm water discharge associated with construction activity for oil and gas construction activity, unless the oil and gas construction activity contributes to a violation of water quality standards.


Section 2. This act shall take effect in 60 days.

If you live in Pennsylvania, or downstream from Pennsylvania (Maryland, Virginia, and anyone who cares about the Chesapeake Bay, I'm looking at you,) this is definitely something that should concern you.   Any time anyone feels the need to carve out exemptions to an Act that begins with the words "An act to preserve and improve the purity of the waters of the Commonwealth for the protection of public health, animal and aquatic life, and for industrial consumption, and recreation," you should be concerned. Read Don's post for more reasons why.

Now, I'm no lawyer, but I am intrigued by the linguistic niceties presented in the amended section:
Except as otherwise provided under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (62 Stat. 1155, 33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq.) or Federal regulation,
OK.  What does this bit mean?  We would have to consult the details of the cited act to see what is required and what is exempted.  As stated in the proposed amendment, "62 Stat. 1155, 33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq." refers to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, a.k.a. the Clean Water Act.

United States Code: Title 33,1251. Congressional declaration of goals and policy LII / Legal Information Institute
the department shall not require, consistent with section 402(l)(2) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (62 Stat. 1155, 33 U.S.C. § 1342(l)(2)), a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for a storm water discharge associated with construction activity for oil and gas construction activity,
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/33/1342.html
unless the oil and gas construction activity contributes to a violation of water quality standards.
Wait.  What?

Let me get this straight.  Consistent with the Clean Water Act, except as otherwise provided by the Clean Water Act, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection shall not require a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for a storm water discharge associated with construction activity for oil and gas construction activity, unless the oil and gas construction activity contributes to a violation of water quality standards?

Smashing.  Why don't we simplify matters entirely, and extend this exemption to all industries?  So you only need to get the permit if you are actively generating pollution?

Well.  Sounds all nice and reasonable, doesn't it?   Actually, it sounds like a big, wide-open loophole.

I recently read a friend's post about domestic abuse, how his mother was given a heads-up when his abusive stepfather was released from the veteran's hospital and was on his way back to their home intent on settling the score with her.  She called the police, who told her not to bother them unless he was actually there.  She barricaded all the entrances to the house in a way that should have made entry impossible.  He arrived at their house; she called the police; he tried to get in, was thwarted by her barricades; and, filled with frustrated rage, he forced his way in by an almost superhuman effort and proceeded to beat the crap out of her worse than he had ever done before.

Then the police showed up.

If you're a gas or oil extraction company, come to Pennsylvania!  We promise not to harass you with any of those pesky clean-water regulations.  Unless you plan to pollute, of course.  But if you are, you'll be sure to let us know, right?  'Cause then we'll need you to fill out a couple of forms. 

2 comments:

Lazarus Lupin said...

Basically what this means is that someone will have to catch them in the act of pollution. Which means citizens will have to take water samples and spend money on tests.

By the way, have you read Neal Stephenson's "Zodiac?"

Lazarus Lupin
http://strangespanner.blogspot.com/
art and review

Todd HellsKitchen said...

I love the Chesapeake Bay!