A state regulatory commission has signed off on increased water quality standards that will limit what natural gas drillers can dump into Pennsylvania’s streams.
The guidelines prevent gas drillers from depositing water with more than 500 milligrams of total dissolved solids per liter into rivers and streams.
That means the companies would have to drastically clean up fracking fluid, which typically contains between one hundred and three hundred thousand milligrams of TDS, according to state officials.
Tony Gaudis of Range Resources represented the drilling industry at the hearing.
He says the guidelines are too stringent, pointing out a bottle of San Pellegrino runs afoul of the 500 milligram limit.
"It’s a bottle of water. The TDS written on the bottle of that is over 900 milligrams per liter, which would exceed the requirement of 500 milligrams per liter that’s suggested in this regulation. As well, Gatorade would be fifteen hundred."
Gaudis says applying the standard to gas drillers, but not other industries, is unfair.
But Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger says the law complies with federal clean water standards, and is designed to avoid water that “smells bad, tastes bad, and causes damage…to fish.” Hanger says the fracking fluid, which is used to force natural gas out of the ground, is a special exception.
"It is, to put it in plain language, very polluted, or very dirty. It has readings for TDS of somewhere often between 100-thousand milligrams per liter to 300-thousand milligrams per liter. To put that in context, sea water is typically around 20-thousand milligrams per liter or so."
Clean Water Action State Director Myron Arnowitt applauded the new rules..
"The total dissolved solids, especially the salts, present in very high concentrations in Marcellus Shale wastewater is very detrimental to aquatic life. Fishing is an important part of Pennsylvania. It’s an important part of our culture and heritage. But it’s also an important part of our economy."
The regulations can technically be overridden, if the House and Senate pass a joint resolution that’s signed by Governor Rendell.
But Rendell’s office says he’d veto such a measure.