Bill Encourages Drillers to Use Abandoned Mine Drainage to Frack

  • Acid mine drainage often turns a stream orange and smothers all aquatic life. In this case, aluminum has turned the stream lifeless. Photo: Courtesy of the Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Acid Mine Reclamation

December 4, 2013
By Katie Colaneri

After shrinking away from the spotlight for almost eight months, a bill aimed at encouraging natural gas drillers to use polluted mine drainage water to frack by easing their liability is making its way back into the legislature.

Senate Bill 411 got a lot of attention earlier this year when environmentalists pushed back, claiming it would grant immunity to the industry all the way through the fracking process. The bill was tabled in March, but was amended in mid-November and has now been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee to the surprise of environmental groups closely following the issue.

The state wants natural gas drillers to use this polluted water over fresh water sources. It takes about four million gallons of water to frack just one well. Some drilling companies like Seneca Resources are already doing this, but others worried the original bill, introduced by Sen. Richard Kasunic (D) from Somerset and Fayette counties, would make them responsible for cleaning up these streams in perpetuity.

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