Innamorato: Hearing underscores need to close hazardous waste loophole

Testimony illustrates dangers to communities, public health

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 14 – As testifiers Wednesday highlighted the dangers to communities across the commonwealth, state Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny, said the House Democratic Policy Committee hearing she hosted had underscored the need for the state legislature to close a decades-old loophole regarding hazardous waste from the oil and gas industries, as well as the need to address radioactivity making its way from oil and gas waste into drinking water.

“Today’s hearing underscored the need for the legislature to take action to correct this oversight and to protect the health, safety and welfare of Pennsylvanians,” Innamorato said. “For too long, elected officials have turned a blind eye to the downstream effects of the oil and gas industry, prioritizing profits over the long-term risks to our communities and environment. Our state constitution guarantees our rights to clean air and water and we, unfortunately, have ample history of what happens when those rights are not protected.”

Innamorato’s legislation, H.B. 2926 and H.B. 2925, as well as H.B. 2927, would repeal language that exempts the oil and gas industry from complying with the provisions of existing hazardous waste law (H.B. 2926). House Bill 2925 would include drilling waste in the Solid Waste Management Act’s definition of “hazardous waste.” House Bill 2927 would prohibit landfills from accepting radioactive and hazardous wastes from oil and gas operations and from sending radioactive and hazardous wastes leachate to wastewater treatment facilities without hazardous waste and radiological testing.

“The problems that lead to oil and gas waste contamination of soil, water, our homes and bodies have an easy fix – closing loopholes,” said Melissa Troutman, a research and policy analyst with Earthworks, one of the entities that testified at Wednesday’s hearing. “By doing so, as the proposed legislation from Representative Innamorato does, we simply treat the hazardous and radioactive materials in oil and gas waste for what they are, rather than by exemption from the laws that should govern them. When we close the loopholes and let the law do what it is meant to, we protect everyone in the commonwealth, from frontline residents and workers to the drinking water users downstream.”