Shale Gas Drill Cuttings for Experimental Use Challenged With Longer Term Benefits
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network; Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper; Earthworks; and Stewards of the Lower Susquehanna v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Protection; Range Resources Appalachia, LLC; and La Farge North America, Inc.
EHB Docket Number is: 2014-128-R
On August 16, 2014, the Department of Environmental Protection published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin the Department’s approval of Range Resources—Appalachia, LLC’s, registration for coverage under a Residual Waste General Permit 097 authorizing what are supposed to be “research and development activities” to support the “beneficial use” of Marcellus Shale drill cuttings. The specific project that was the subject of the approval was for use of drill cuttings in construction of a well pad in an Exceptional Value watershed.
On September 15, 2014, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, Earthworks and Stewards of the Lower Susquehanna filed an appeal of that registration with the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board.
During the course of the appeal Range and the DEP advised that despite the approval the site that was the subject of the appeal had been developed without the use of drill cuttings. It was also learned, however, that the DEP had granted another approval to Range, without the public notice that had accompanied the initial approval that had been the subject of the appeal. This meant that DEP has been operating in a manner that has allowed so-called “beneficial use” projects to move forward without any public notice of their approval. Without such public notice, no appeals are possible.
In settling the case, the DEP agreed that in the future it will publish in the Pennsylvania Bulletin notice of the Department’s:
receipt of an operator’s request to beneficially use drill cuttings pursuant to Residual Waste General Permit 097 at a new location; and t
he final action taken with respect to an operator’s request to beneficially use drill cuttings pursuant to Residual Waste General Permit 097 at a new location.
This settlement will ensure that future DEP approvals for these types of projects will be subject to public scrutiny.