A bipartisan bill that would limit liabilities for any Pennsylvania oil and natural gas producer that uses treated coal mine water to drill and stimulate its wells has passed both the state House and Senate by wide margins and has been sent to Gov. Tom Wolf to sign into law.

Introduced in June by Republican state Sen. Camera Bartolotta and co-sponsored by Democrats as well, SB 875 clarifies the legal liabilities associated with the use of treated mine water in oil and gas operations (see Shale Daily, June 5). It's aimed at reducing the use of fresh water for drilling and completion operations. Under current law, legal liabilities have been a deterrent to more producers using the treated water in their wells.

"Using treated mine water in natural gas operations is an innovative and environmentally responsible practice," Bartolotta said after the bill was sent to Wolf. "Clearing up this gray area in terms of liability will pave the way for more companies to explore this alternative."

The bill was sent to Wolf on Wednesday. It passed the Senate by a vote of 34-15 in June and passed the House by a vote of 160-37 on Sept. 21. Wolf spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan said the administration supports the legislation, but he did not say when the governor would sign it.

The bill ensures that oil and gas well operators cannot be held liable for proper or improper treatment of the coal mine water. That obligation remains with the mine operator under SB 875. The legislation also ensures that a mine operator offering treated water cannot be held liable for its off-site use by an oil and gas operator.

The state, seeking to dispose of coal mine water that has flowed into streams and rivers, has in recent years pushed its use for horizontal hydraulic fracturing (see Shale DailyJan. 14, 2013). Last year, the state Senate tabled a similar bill limiting liabilities after it met staunch opposition from public advocacy and environmental organizations (see Shale DailyJan. 17, 2014).

Bartolotta, who also serves as the vice chairwoman of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, has stressed that her bill would not weaken any existing environmental regulations.