Pennsylvania Senate Proposes Rule to Use Mine Wastewater in Hydraulic Fracturing

The Pennsylvania Senate environmental and energy committee approved legislation that would limit the treatment liability of entities that choose to utilize acid mine drainage (AMD) water for hydraulic fracturing of oil/gas wells, or other industrial uses.

AMD is Pennsylvania’s single greatest source or water pollution, responsible for approximately 2500 miles of contaminated waterways.

According to State Senator Kasunic who proposed the bill:
... [o]ne of the major reasons the oil/gas industry has not fully committed to utilizing AMD is the concern with the old adage ‘once you touch it, you own it’. The steep costs of treating AMD and the continued liability associated with an AMD source can often run into the millions of dollars. Without limiting these potential costs it is highly unlikely the industry will consider using AMD over other fresh water sources.
The bill provides liability protection from the perpetual treatment of AMD at its source when the end use is for hydraulic fracturing or industrial use.

An AMD treatment project eligible for this liability protection would be vetted through a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) process developed in the Environmental Good Samaritan Act (Act 68 of 1999).

Senate Bill 411 can be found at the Pennsylvania Legislation's web site. Read the DEP’s White Paper: Utilization of Mine Influenced Water for Natural Gas Extraction Activities.

This bill follows the release of a January 2013 DEP white paper that sets out rules governing the use of mining runoff in hydraulic fracking. See the DEP’s white paper, Utilization of Mine Influenced Water for Natural Gas Extraction Activities.

For further information also see our blog post, "Pennsylvania Sets Rules for Using Mine Wastewater in Fracking Operations."

This article was prepared by Barclay R. Nicholson ( or 713 651 3662) from Fulbright's Energy Practice.