Wolf’s Latest Veto Threatens Conventional Oil, Gas Industry
By Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint)
Just when you thought Gov. Tom Wolf had put his veto pen away and was done creating crises for the people of Pennsylvania, he chose to veto another bill integral to the state budget process last week.
The governor’s rejection of the state’s Fiscal Code bill has wide-ranging implications, but one of the most concerning and potentially devastating to our region is the impact it has on conventional oil and gas producers who are essentially fighting for their lives in the face of new, excessive and extremely costly regulations developed by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Had the governor signed the Fiscal Code into law, it would have invalidated these potentially devastating regulations and required DEP and its Environmental Quality Board to start over again. In his veto message, he complained the measure would create a “significant obstacle” for DEP, but that obstacle could have been easily avoided if his administration had simply followed the law.
Nearly two years ago, Causer say he worked with other lawmakers to pass legislation requiring DEP to develop two separate sets of regulations for the oil and gas industry – one for the large-scale, unconventional drilling being done in the Marcellus Shale region and the second for the smaller, shallow conventional well operators. There are very distinct differences in these types of operations, and forcing conventional operators to follow the same regulations as unconventional operators is both unreasonable and unnecessary. It is also unaffordable and could cost thousands of people across north central Pennsylvania their livelihood.
Unbelievably, Causer writes, DEP thumbed its nose at the law, simply changed the name of the regulations and kept pushing them forward. When the regulations came before the Environmental Quality Board for approval in early February, the board didn’t even cast two separate votes. This is, in effect, one set of regulations, and that flies in the face of both the intent and the letter of the law.
And DEP didn’t stop there. Officials have also played fast and loose with the rules for making regulations, failing to provide adequate data and information about the implications of the new rules on the conventional industry in a timely manner. They’re quick to defend the “openness” of the process, claiming to have collected more than 30,000 public comments on the regulations. Cause asks how many of those comments have they ACTUALLY considered, seeing as how the comments from conventional producers and lawmakers have been virtually ignored? And of the 30,000 public comments received, how many of those people even know what a conventional well is? Does Gov. Wolf even know?
On April 21, these regulations will come before the Independent Regulatory Review Commission for a final review. IRRC is charged with making certain that the agency proposing the regulations has the statutory authority to do so and to determine whether the regulation is consistent with legislative intent. IRRC then considers other criteria, such as economic impact, public health and safety, reasonableness, impact on small businesses and clarity. It is my hope IRRC will reject the regulations, not only because of DEP’s failure to follow the proper process but also because of the irreparable harm these regulations, in their current form, would cause for our conventional oil and gas operators.
Many of the conventional oil and gas operations in our area are small, family-owned businesses that have been operating safely here for generations. These men and women are dedicated to our communities and are good stewards of the environment. They have worked hard to make a living for themselves. Their employees rely on these jobs to support their families, as do employees in related industries, such as the refinery.
Each and every one of these people deserve better. They deserve a governor who takes the time to understand their industry and respects them enough to work with them rather than against them.
The Pennsylvania Independent Petroleum Producers (PIPP) has gone so far as to file a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the regulations from going into effect and running them out of business. It’s a sad day when anybody has to hire lawyers and file suit to try to get their governor and his administration to listen to them.
The oil and gas industry is a cornerstone of our region’s economy. The loss of this industry and the thousands of jobs it supports would be devastating to all of us, not only here in north central Pennsylvania but for the people across the state who rely on the energy and related products produced here.
Causer says he will continue to fight for the region’s energy producers and all of rural Pennsylvania.