A longtime foe of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the Pennsylvania General Assembly has introduced a bill that would require companies applying for permits to drill Marcellus Shale natural gas wells to conduct pre-drill water quality tests for nearby landowners that request it.

Rep. Camille “Bud” George (D-Houtzdale) submitted the bill (HB 2556) on Tuesday. It was then referred to the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, which George chairs.

“This legislation is needed to protect our water supplies and would be a win-win for everyone,” George said Friday. “HB 2556 allows for landowners whose water has been polluted by gas drilling to be compensated, and it protects gas companies from frivolous lawsuits for conditions for which a gas company is not at fault.”

HB 2556 would amend Title 58 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes as it pertains to oil and natural gas. It would require companies perform a pre-drilling or pre-alteration survey of water supplies for landowners that reside between 2,500 and 5,500 feet of a proposed natural gas well that would be fracked. The landowners would be required to submit the request in writing.

The bill also stipulates that the testing be done using a facility or laboratory certified by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and that the testing at a minimum include a search for the chemicals used in fracking. Specifically mentioned compounds for testing include arsenic, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes, manganese, dissolved methane, chlorides, nutrients and radionuclides.

“Pennsylvania has inadequate safeguards for water, including minimal standards for water-well construction and the scant protections in the Act 13 Marcellus shale legislation,” George said. “My measure would be one more step needed to address the mounting threats to water.”

In April George submitted another bill (HB 2350) which called for a two-year moratorium on wastewater injections wells. That measure is also before the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

George announced in January that he plans to retire at the end of the year (see Shale Daily, Jan. 31). He has been the top ranking Democrat on environmental issues since 1983. He once proposed a 30 cent/Mcf severance tax on high-volume shale wells, among the highest ever suggested by lawmakers (see Shale Daily, Aug. 16, 2011).