Pennsylvania Mine Water – Now OK to Use in Gas Well Development – Liability is Limited
Senate Bill 875 was recently signed by Pennsylvania Governor Wolf. This legislation encourages the oil and gas industry to use treated mine water for the drilling, completing and hydraulic fracturing of conventional and unconventional oil and gas wells. Earlier versions of this bill had been worked and reworked in both the PA House and Senate but failed to garner enough traction to pass in both Chambers. The primary concern in past negotiations was the level of liability for both the mine operator and the well operator relative to any pollution associated with using the water. This latest bill, whose prime sponsor was Senator Camera Bartolotta of Washington County, draws some clear lines on how far any liability actually extends. The most germane statement in the bill to this point is in Section 2, Item (4) which states: “The purpose of this act is to protect a mine operator who provides treated mine water for the development of an oil or gas well from liability for the offsite use of treated mine water and to protect persons who use treated mine water to develop oil and gas wells from liability for the treatment or abatement of mine drainage or mine pool water.” Treated mine water is defined as: “Water from an active or closed coal mine that is treated by a mine operator under a permit issued by the department.” Section 4 of the bill addresses the liability and immunity issues and states that a mine operator who provides water from a permitted site for well development is immune from any liability for any costs, injuries or damages arising out of the use of the water as long as the water is used outside the boundaries of the mining operation and the mine operator is not the same person using the water for well development. Additionally, the well operator who acquires this water is immune from liability for the treatment or abatement of mine drainage as a result of acquiring the water. It is hoped that this new Act will encourage both mine operators and well operators to utilize mine treated water in the process of well development.