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Pennsylvania Pushing Polluted Mine Water Use

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is looking for ways to get the natural gas industry to use polluted discharge from old mines.

By using acid mine drainage (AMD) for development activities, including hydraulic fracturing, the industry could help the DEP solve two problems: easing the water needs of the industry and reclaiming abandoned mine sites across the state.

The DEP published a draft white paper on the issue in November and held meetings this past week with environmental and industry groups. The DEP will compile their comments into a position paper, spokesman Kevin Sunday told NGI's Shale Daily.

The industry is interested in the idea. "We've actually had a handful of proposal come in already," Sunday said.

Before the practice becomes commonplace, though, companies want certainty on several regulatory issues, including protections against long-term liability under the Clean Streams Law, and they have questions about how AMD would be classified as storage.

In addition to those issues, the DEP is also looking for ways to make AMD use easy by crafting an expedited process to move applications through in as little as 15 days. The changes can be handled entirely within existing DEP regulations, Sunday said.

Some 300 million gallons of AMD flow into Pennsylvania waterways every day.

The Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission's final report recommended giving the industry immunity from environmental liability for using AMD instead of freshwater. And the current impact fee legislation moving through the Pennsylvania General Assembly would dedicate a small portion of the revenue collected from the fee toward grants for increasing the industrial use of AMD.

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