On Clean Water Act Anniversary, State House Attacks Clean Water Protections
-- Further loopholes for the oil and gas industry expected in bills next week
(Harrisburg) – On the 45th anniversary of the passage of the federal Clean Water Act, State House Republicans and Democrats joined together in supporting attacks on clean water protections amended to a state budget related bill last night. The Administrative Code bill, HB 118 had previously passed the State Senate and is on its way to the Governor’s desk.
“Its shocking that one of the few things Democrats and Republicans can agree on in Harrisburg is the need to continue to allow the oil and gas industry to evade our clean water laws,” stated Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania Director for Clean Water Action.
HB 118 passed by a vote of 104 – 86, with support from 39 House Republicans and 65 House Democrats. Leadership in both parties voted for the final version of HB 118.
HB 118 contained two amendments that attacked efforts to clean up water pollution from the oil, gas, and coal industries. One provision would allow the continued discharge of over 50 million gallons a year of conventional oil and gas drilling wastewater into rivers and streams in the state. This drilling wastewater has been shown to contain heavy metals like arsenic, radioactive compounds, and high levels of salts, 2-3 times saltier than seawater. The HB 118 amendment allows oil and gas companies to continue to evade an EPA order to install treatment on their discharges as required by the Clean Water Act.
The second amendment to HB 118 largely prevents DEP from establishing a state water quality standard for manganese, a toxic metal found in coal that can bioaccumulate in river trout. DEP has been working for years to establish this long needed standard to protect waterways from coal and industrial discharges containing this hazardous metal.
“Unfortunately, this is just the tip of a very dirty iceberg being prepared in our state budget this year. Legislators who care about protecting our water and air need to demand any new revenue package be free of rollbacks to environmental protections,” stated Arnowitt.
The State House and Senate are expected to take up revenue bills next week that are expected to have numerous amendments that would prevent or limit the state’s ability to regulate the oil and gas industry.
“Its time for our Governor and the leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties to demonstrate some leadership on behalf of the welfare of Pennsylvanians, and enact a state budget that doesn’t take away our rights to clean water and air,” concluded Arnowitt.
Clean Water Action has more than 80,000 members statewide in Pennsylvania and is the nation's largest grassroots group focused on water, energy and environmental health. Clean Water Action's 1 million members nationally work for clean, safe and affordable water, prevention of health-threatening pollution, and creation of environmentally-safe jobs and businesses. Clean Water Action's nonpartisan campaigns empower people to make democracy work. www.cleanwateraction.org