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PRESS INFORMATION

For Immediate Release – June 7, 2024

Contact: Karen Feridun, Better Path Coalition, 610-678-7726, karen@betterpathcoalition.org

 

PA Environmental Regulators Remove Nonexistent Product Type That Gave Legitimacy to Continued Road Spreading of Toxic, Radioactive Waste Despite Moratorium

Better Path Coalition’s Query into the Product Type’s Addition Led to Its Removal

Pennsylvania: According to documents received in response to a Right-to-Know request submitted by the Better Path Coalition, “brine co-product” has been removed from the Department of Environmental Protection’s waste reporting system. The product type was scrapped during a mediation in February that followed from an appeal of an earlier Right-to-Know the Coalition submitted last October.

The Coalition questioned why a nonexistent product type was added to the state’s official record of the handling of toxic, radioactive drilling waste when its presence gave legitimacy to drillers who were spreading the waste on unpaved roads in parts of the state. The drillers were acting in defiance of a moratorium the agency had declared a year before it added the product type.

The DEP told the Better Path Coalition during the mediation that it believes it was acting on a verbal request from Pennfield Energy when it made the significant, and concerning, change to add the product type, but could provide no documentation of the request or the decision act on it.

When the moratorium went into effect in 2018, drillers believed they found a loophole in a beneficial use program overseen by the agency’s Bureau of Waste Management. The co-product program allows waste to be used in place of a commercial product if it performs as well and is no more injurious to the environment or human health than the commercial product is. The program allows waste owners to make those determinations themselves without any requirement to even notify the DEP. Thus, drillers believed they could justify their continued spreading of toxic waste on Pennsylvania’s roadways by making use of the co-product loophole.

In 2021, the Bureau of Waste Management began requesting Co-product Determination reports from the drillers who continued to report road spreading. To date, not one has successfully demonstrated that their waste meets the program’s requirements found in Section 287.8 of the Pennsylvania Code.

Since the moratorium was declared, drillers have reported spreading more than 3 million gallons of waste on roads. 

“We are glad that the Department of Environmental Production heard our concerns about compromising the state’s oil and gas waste reporting system with a made-up product type,” said Karen Feridun, Co-founder of the Better Path Coalition, who has been researching and writing about the Coproduct loophole on behalf of the Coalition since 2021. “Although our main concern was with the decision to enable drillers who were trying to work around the moratorium, we were also very bothered by the fact that the state’s environmental regulators were willing to corrupt their own database. The product type was misapplied by several conventional and a few unconventional drillers.”

The number of drillers who have reported road spreading since 2018 is a fraction of the number who reported using the disposal method prior to the moratorium.

The sharp drop in the number of drillers reporting road spreading after the moratorium raises another concern about drillers’ use of the co-product loophole. Among the documents Feridun received in response to a 2022 Right-to-Know request was a 2019 letter Pennfield Energy sent to townships that were prospective clients. The letter states that “Pennfield has obtained a Co-Product status instead of Waste with our brine. What this means is you don’t have to report spreading and it can be spread all year round. I know this is hard to believe because D.E.P. doesn’t make anything easy, but it’s true, you do need our brine analysis on hand and a copy of the D.E.P. regulation with Co-product determination.  We will provide this to you once we you(sic) have completed and returned the enclosed agreement.” 

Before the Bureau of Waste Management requested Pennfield’s co-product determination report in 2021, the company had not reported any form of waste disposal from 2018 through 2020, even though the DEP’s Oil & Gas Well Production reports from the same three years show that the company produced 10165.66 barrels of oil.

“How many companies continued to spread their waste on roads but just stopped reporting it because they believed their waste was no longer a waste but a co-product? Nobody can answer that question and that’s a big problem,” said Feridun. “And it’s just one of many big problems with how dangerous drilling waste is managed in Pennsylvania. It’s past time for an outright ban on all road spreading in Pennsylvania.”

The Better Path Coalition thanks Tim Fitchett of Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services for his assistance in negotiations during the appeal.

 

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May 6, 2024

For Planning Purposes

Contact: Karen Feridun, Better Path Coalition, 610-678-7726, karen@betterpathcoalition.org

 

Wednesday: Coalition Calling for End to Road Spreading of Drilling Waste to Deliver Letter to Shapiro

Private Donor Has Provided Coalition with Sports Tickets for Shapiro in Hopes of Helping Group Avoid Arrest

 

The Better Path Coalition will deliver a letter to Governor Shapiro’s office calling for a ban on all road spreading of toxic, radioactive drilling waste. Nearly 60 organizations and more than 80 individuals have signed the letter that continues to gain signatures.

 

Conventional drillers have reported spreading more than 3.5 million gallons of waste since the 2018 moratorium declared by the Department of Environmental Protection. Drillers claim to be using a Bureau of Waste Management beneficial use program to justify their defiance of the moratorium, but, to date, no driller has successfully determined that their waste qualifies for use. Results of a series of Right-to-Know requests filed by the coalition show that drillers have really never tried.

 

The DEP reported in March that 86% of drillers failed to file production and waste reports for 2023. Based on numbers the agency reported in 2022, the staggering percentage is consistent with levels of noncompliance with basic reporting requirements that have trended upward in recent years. How much of the unreported waste has been spread on roads is anyone’s guess.

 

The letter’s signers demand intervention by Governor Shapiro and the legislature to ban all road spreading and force a culture change at the agency that  for too long has tolerated noncompliance. 

 

Given Shapiro’s acceptance of $12,000 in sports tickets from Team PA that functions as a pass-through for undisclosed donors, a private donor has provided the coalition with two tickets to a sports event. The coalition believes this offering will forestall arrests (like those in March of climate protesters trying to deliver a statement to the governor) and will serve as a “ticket” into Shapiro’s office. 

 

Who: Better Path Coalition members

What: Delivery of letter calling for ban on road spreading of drilling waste

When: Wednesday, May 8, 1:30 p.m.

Where: Governor Shapiro’s office

Visuals: Sign that reads, “Please Don’t Arrest Us. We Come Bearing Sports Tickets.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 26, 2024

Contact: Karen Feridun, Better Path Coalition, 610-678-7726, betterpathpa@gmail.com

 

Organizations and Concerned Residents Challenge Shapiro on Overreaction and Overreach

More than 50 Organizations and Concerned Residents Signed Letter to the Governor

 

Pennsylvania: Today, more than 50 advocacy organizations and concerned residents submitted a letter to Governor Josh Shapiro criticizing his response to peaceful climate protesters’ attempt to deliver a letter to his office a week ago.

 

The letter opens, “The actions you took against climate activists on March 19 were unwarranted. Blocking peaceful protest in the Capitol threatens the very democracy you swore an oath to preserve.”

 

Later, the letter reminds Governor Shapiro of his statement to Miss Earth. He said, “I don’t believe that governments will be able to make the kind of change necessary, speaking in the short period of time we need to really address climate change, without folks on the outside influencing the process.” The letter continues, “ A few weeks after the meeting with Ms. Coffey, you shared a text line the public could use to contact you following an executive order you’d signed that spring declaring that there should be ‘no wrong door to government.’”

 

The signers note, “Climate activists attempting to ‘influence the process’ have been met with nothing but closed doors, usually with armed guards stationed in front of them.”

 

The full letter is available here.

 

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For Immediate Release – February 23, 2024

Contact: Karen Feridun, Better Path Coalition, 610-678-7726, karen@betterpathcoalition.org

 

Change to Pennsylvania’s Oil & Gas Waste Reporting System Provided Air of Legitimacy to Continued Road Spreading of Toxic, Radioactive Waste Despite Moratorium

Better Path Coalition Renews Call for Ban on Road Spreading After Discovering Change Made by Regulators at Driller’s Request

 

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection told the Better Path Coalition, in response to a Right-to-Know appeal, that it believes it was acting on a verbal request from Pennfield Energy when it made a significant, and concerning, change to the state’s oil and gas waste reporting system. In 2019, the agency added “brine co-product” to the list of options drillers could select when they were reporting that they had spread toxic, radioactive drilling waste on Pennsylvania roads despite a moratorium the agency put on the practice the previous year. The revelation has prompted the Coalition to renew its call for a ban on all road spreading of drilling waste in the state.

“Brine co-product” does not appear on the state’s list of Residual Waste Codes. In 2020, the Office of Oil and Gas Management updated its “Oil and Gas Reporting Electronic: Conventional Wells Production and Waste Reporting Guide.” Appendix D of the guide provides a list describing the types of waste drillers must report. Brine co-product is not on the list. According to the version history at the end of the document, the product type list was updated on March 12, 2019. Other updates to the document were made in May 2019 and September 2020.

The addition of “brine co-product” effectively gave the air of legitimacy to continued reporting of road spreading by drillers who believed they had found a loophole in a beneficial use program overseen by the agency’s Bureau of Waste Management. The co-product program allows waste to be used in place of a commercial product if it performs as well and is no more injurious to the environment or human health than the commercial product is. The program allows waste owners to make those determinations themselves without any requirement to even notify the DEP. Thus, drillers believed they could justify their continued spreading of toxic waste on Pennsylvania’s roadways by making use of the co-product loophole.

The Bureau of Waste Management did not begin requesting copies of drillers’ determination reports until 2021. The agency was unable to produce documents requested by Karen Feridun, Co-founder of the Better Path Coalition, that showed what, if any, process was used to approve the addition of “brine co-product” to the waste reporting system. It is not clear if the Office of Oil and Gas Management informed the Bureau of Waste Management that drillers were using the co-product program.

To date, no drillers have made proper determinations, according to records of communications the Coalition has received from the Bureau of Waste Management in responses to a series of Right-to-Know requests.

“The Office of Oil and Gas Management appears to have been more interested in legitimizing records than ensuring they were truly legitimate,” says Feridun, who has followed the road spreading issue since the Bureau of Waste Management first requested determination reports from drillers and has periodically updated a brief, Moratorium Morass, she wrote in 2021.

Since the moratorium was declared, drillers have reported spreading more than 3 million gallons of waste on roads. However, the number of drillers reporting road spreading is a fraction of the number that reported using the disposal method prior to the moratorium.

The sharp drop in the number of drillers reporting road spreading after the moratorium raises another concern about drillers’ use of the co-product loophole. Among the documents Feridun received in response to a 2022 Right-to-Know request was a 2019 letter Pennfield Energy sent to townships that were prospective clients. The letter states that “Pennfield has obtained a Co-Product status instead of Waste with our brine. What this means is you don’t have to report spreading and it can be spread all year round. I know this is hard to believe because D.E.P. doesn’t make anything easy, but it’s true, you do need our brine analysis on hand and a copy of the D.E.P. regulation with Co-product determination.  We will provide this to you once we you(sic) have completed and returned the enclosed agreement.” (emphasis added)

Before the Bureau of Waste Management requested Pennfield’s co-product determination report in 2021, the company had not reported any form of waste disposal from 2018 through 2020 even though the DEP’s Oil & Gas Well Production reports from the same three years show that the company produced 10165.66 barrels of oil.

“How many companies continued to road spread, but just stopped reporting it because they believed their waste was no longer a waste but a co-product? Nobody can answer that question and that’s a big problem,” said Feridun.

As Feridun’s 2021 brief concludes, “Decades-old problems with the management and tracking of oil and gas wastewater spread on Pennsylvania’s roads have made it impossible to know where it has been spread and in what quantities. Those problems have only deepened since drillers started availing themselves of the virtually unregulated Co-product Determination program.”

“With no documentation and nothing more than a recollection of who made the verbal request, we can only speculate about why the request was made by Pennfield and why DEP fulfilled it. If the DEP believed that diminishing the integrity of the state’s official record of waste disposal was a fair trade off for getting drillers to disclose how much waste they had spread on Pennsylvania’s roads, they were wrong. The fact that Pennfield did not resume reporting waste disposal until they were contacted by the Bureau of Waste Management in 2021 proves that,” continued Feridun.

“In Moratorium Morass, we discussed the many problems with the way oil and gas waste is reported in Pennsylvania and provided specific examples of errors in the system that should be corrected and improvements to the system that would allow for better tracking of waste. It is particularly galling that the DEP was responsive to a driller’s request for a made-up product type but has yet to even acknowledge the recommendations we shared with them three years ago. By the way, none of our recommendations involved corrupting the data.” said Feridun.

The Better Path Coalition thanks Tim Fitchett of Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services for his assistance in negotiations during the appeal.

 

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2024 Budget Address Statement revised version_Page_1.png

Pennsylvania: In his first budget address since the hottest year in recorded history, delivered as California deals with a deadly, destructive atmospheric river, Governor Josh Shapiro had little to say about fossil fuels and continued to ignore the existential crisis they have brought about.

In his strategic plan launched days before the budget address where energy is presented as one of 5 priority industry sectors, Shapiro laid out an agenda plagued by old thinking about outmoded energy sources. He cited jobs growth myths that have been debunked repeatedly since 2013’s Multi-State Collaborative. His plan relies on an all-of-the-above energy mix. President Barack Obama coined the phrase a dozen years ago. He stopped using it four years later. 

At first glance, hydrogen appears to be the new business on the governor’s energy agenda. A closer look reveals that hydrogen is nothing more than Fossil Fuels 3.0. Pennsylvania is part of two proposed publicly-funded hydrogen hubs on opposite ends of the state. Methane gas would provide the feedstock for most of the production and even the hydrogen produced from other sources would divert money and attention from making the transition away from fossil fuels.

Rather than force us into further subservience to the fossil fuel industry and into an existential crisis, Governor Shapiro needs to seize the opportunity to lead the transition from fossil fuels into an economy that is safe, healthy and serves to uplift Pennsylvanians and the world.

Governor Shapiro likes to “get sh*t done” quickly. Our future depends on him getting it done right.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 12, 2024

Contact: Karen Feridun, Better Path Coalition, 610-678-7726, betterpathpa@gmail.com

 

Better Path Coalition Points to Lack of Responsiveness & Bad Deals with Drillers in Shapiro’s First Year Review

Frontline- and Grassroots-led Coalition Adds Five New Recommendations to More than 30 Shapiro Ignored

 

Pennsylvania: Today, the Better Path Coalition submitted a letter to Governor Josh Shapiro that follows from a letter sent to him and his transition team a year ago. It is the second letter of its kind; the first was sent to mark his 100th day in office. And it is the second to find that he has all but ignored the more than 30 recommendations the original letter contained.

 

The new letter, sent days before the anniversary of his inauguration, adds five new recommendations based on his actions since taking office:

  • Walk the “No Wrong Door” talk

  • Rescind the CNX deal

  • Act on the DOH/Pitt health studies

  • End continued support for fossil fuels

  • Address ongoing needs of PA communities devastated by Norfolk Southern derailment

 

The letter also contains comments on the original recommendations following each section. 

 

Over the past year, the coalition has attempted to reach out to Governor Shapiro several times with invitations to meet, to attend briefings with experts the group organizes each month, and to hear Pennsylvanians testify at the People’s Hearing on Climate Change during the 2023 Pennsylvania Climate Convergence last October. Contrary to his rhetoric about “No Wrong Door” to government, the coalition has encountered only closed doors, sometimes guarded by an armed officer. The letter closes letting the governor know our invitations still stand.

 

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Read the full letter here.

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