On May 14 the Mehoopany Creek Watershed Association in Wyoming County submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of the review required by President Trump’s Executive Order to identify EPA regulations that are not needed or overly burdensome. (EPA Docket: EPA-HQ-OA-2017-0190)
It was just one of the over 55,100 responses EPA received on this issue.
Pointing out that Wyoming County and their 134.5 square mile watershed in particular has been challenged due to impacts from legacy industries like clear-cutting timber, mining and abandoned oil and gas wells.
The result has been “never ending volumes of sediment to the Chesapeake Bay” and “legacy mining has resulted in low ph levels that do not sustain healthy and abundant aquatic life.”
They also pointed to legacy oil and gas drilling that resulted in abandoned and unplugged oil and gas wells that have not been located or assessed. Now, they said, the watershed is facing both air and water quality challenges from new unconventional shale gas drilling.
“Thus, our experience indicates that the question is not what environmental regulations are necessary, but rather, what regulations are necessary to ensure that our community, families and threatened and endangered species, that our air and water quality are adequate to promote a healthy and sustainable environment in which to live.
“In conclusion, we request that this rulemaking [President Trump’s Executive Order reviewing environmental regulations] be retired. It doesn’t put America First, it doesn’t make America Great Again, it doesn’t protect the American People. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this rulemaking.”
The complete text of the Watershed Association’s comments follows—
Dear Administrator Pruitt:
Mehoopany Creek Watershed is located within the Susquehanna River basin. Our watershed drains 134.5 square mile area within Wyoming, Bradford, Luzerne and Sullivan Counties.
The watershed remains challenged due to impacts from legacy industries. Clear-cutting timber during the logging era has resulted in erosion and sediment issues that remain to the present day, as glacial till soils have very much difficulty rebounding from a severe environmental impact.
Our watershed flows never ending volumes of sediment to the Chesapeake Bay.
Legacy mining has resulted in low ph levels that do not sustain healthy and abundant aquatic life. Our watershed association is engaged in monitoring water quality and working to improve stream ph levels.
Legacy oil and gas drilling from the late 1800’s to 1970’s has resulted in abandoned and unplugged old wells, many of which have not been located and assessed. These wells are unknown hazards today as our watershed has unconventional shale gas drilling in the Marcellus play.
Our watershed is facing both air and water quality challenges from this new and ongoing exploitation.
Our watershed is home to our community, families, along with threatened and endangered species.
Thus, our experience indicates that the question is not what environmental regulations are unnecessary, but rather, what regulations are necessary to ensure that our community, families and threatened and endangered species; that our air and water quality are adequate to promote a healthy and sustainable environment in which to live (emphasis theirs).
This rulemaking is in response to the President’s Executive Order that has the objective ‘‘to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens’’ on the American people. In that light, the Federal Register notice outlines areas that will assist in identifying regulations that are considered as unnecessary regulatory burdens--
(i) Eliminate jobs, or inhibit job creation
(ii) are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective;
(iii) impose costs that exceed benefits;
(iv) create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with regulatory reform initiatives and policies;
(v) are inconsistent with the requirements of section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriates Act, 2001 (44 U.S.C. 3516 note), or the guidance issued pursuant to that provision in particular those regulations that rely in whole or in part on data, information, or methods that are not publicly available or that are insufficiently transparent to meet the standard of reproducibility;
(vi) derive from or implement Executive Orders or other Presidential directives that have been subsequently rescinded or substantially modified.
Our watershed lies within an area of unconventional shale gas exploitation. We see up-close and personal the daily operations that are near our homes, school and yes, our streams.
We’ve seen that there are jobs created by this exploitation that exist only because of a regulatory framework that is designed to protect our environment albeit not as strongly as we advocate.
The industry hires contractors to take private water supply samples, do noise studies, and provide environmental health and safety staff.
Even with these precautions and additional personnel in the field private water supplies are impacted (11 within our watershed due to the drilling activity as identified by PA DEP).
Noise remains unaddressed by any agency and leaves families within our watershed including watershed members either dealing with annoying levels of noise or inhumane levels that affect their ability to reside within their homes unaffected.
Regulations are good for the economy. Regulations provide jobs in the private sector. These are good paying jobs, many of which require college degrees or further education.
Don’t throw out the jobs and the regulations.
The existing EPA regulations are only minimal requirements. They are requirements our Commonwealth and those that live within our watershed rely on to ensure we are living within a safe and healthy environment suitable for raising children.
Outdated, Unnecessary and Ineffective
Ineffective regulations are unfunded mandates or mandates that sacrifice rural areas. For example, the Clean Air Act has population thresholds attached to air monitoring requirements.
The Federal government provides funding for the states for the higher populated areas to meet the obligations for required air monitoring. These regulations are discriminate against rural areas.
Now, generally that wouldn’t be a problem since rural areas historically have had few point sources of air pollution. But that was before unconventional shale gas drilling.
Now, we have willy-nilly across our watershed numerous point sources of pollution. Polluting emissions includes cancerous VOCs and even HAPs.
Additionally, emissions includes PM and NOx that is closely associated with asthma, respiratory illnesses and other ailments. We’ve had to request many times that our PA DEP provide air monitoring within our area.
Unfortunately, because the federal government excludes requiring monitoring and funding for less densely populated areas our state has been slow to act.
So, if you want to get rid of an outdated and unnecessary and ineffective regulation, it would be wise to amend this regulation to include areas where there is especially oil and gas drilling since there is very harmful emissions associated with those operations. They need to be monitored everywhere.
The federal government also needs to increase funding to the states. The oil and gas industry has continually opposed efforts to improve air regulations associated with their operations.
They say they do the best, and if they do, they shouldn’t be concerned about regulations.
Regulations don’t impair the operations of good operators. What they do is raise the floor of operations towards environmental health and safety for those operators whose operations are generally negligent.
Impose Costs That Exceed Benefits
The administration is falling short when it comes to considering the level of the public’s health as a benefit. Public health is getting hit from both sides.
Insurance Is Expensive. The government tells us they can’t afford to guarantee everyone has access to insurance and health care.
On the other hand, the government wants to rollback regulations that actually provide for a healthy and sustainable environment. We can’t have it both ways.
To provide everyone with a safe and healthy environment in which to live means that we need a sustainable environment.
Sustainable environments are the result of common sense and adequate regulations. The present regulations are not over the top or constraining.
They are at a very minimal level ensuring public health and safety. Public health and public safety benefits need to be an integral calculation to regulations.
Create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with regulatory reform initiatives and policies Let’s get this straight.
The administration considers regulatory reform initiatives as a rollback of the regulatory system. So, anything that interferes with that is inconsistent according to the administration.
HOWEVER, a true regulatory reform would consider public health and safety first and then development of the resource, or manufacturing, etc. That would be a true reform.
Putting people first, would be a true reform. This is not a reform. This is nothing more than a sham to increase profits on the back of public health and safety.
Derive from or implement Executive Orders or other Presidential directives that have been subsequently rescinded or substantially modified. There are fair reasons for executive orders. Many presidents have used that authority.
In good government, executive orders would not be to give one group preference over another. Yet, this is exactly what this executive order does. The EO preferences corporate profits over public health and safety.
Yet, when operations go awry and public health or safety is affected, who ultimately pays? It’s the taxpayers.
The administration needs to look at environmental disasters and how they have affected public health. Start with the Dust Bowl; Love Canal; Donora, Pennsylvania; Rocky Flats; Deep Water Horizon Spill; Exxon Valdez Oil Spill; Sandvik water supply contamination (Pennsylvania); Knox Mine Disaster (Pennsylvania); these are just a few that illustrate when corporations are left to their own devices they will not act in the best interests of public health and safety.
Even with regulations some companies will fail to adhere to them. This executive order is really poorly centered on the American people. It must not be extended into further areas through this rulemaking.
We could submit a lengthy list of regulations that are most needful. We’d no doubt miss some.
What we can say is that the level of regulations that the federal government had in place and in process on January 19, 2017 is a good starting place to return.
Regulations have been stalled and canceled in actions that were NOT good for the American people.
Our watershed is at risk more each day. We need to be protecting public health and safety and our environment. We live in an age of technology and corporations need to utilize it to benefit our air and water quality.
Corporations are moving towards more robotics that will eliminate more jobs. This is in the news practically daily.
We need people employed in environmental health and safety. The way to do that is to at a minimum to maintain the previous level of regulations.
Ideally, we would advocate that they be strengthened further.
In conclusion, we request that this rulemaking be retired. It doesn’t put America First, it doesn’t make America Great Again, it doesn’t protect the American People. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this rulemaking.
Legislative and Government Affairs Coordinator
Click Here to view a copy of the comments.
Visit the Mehoopany Creek Watershed Association Facebook page for more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events.
[Note: It’s worth saying, 67 percent of those voting in last November’s election in Wyoming County voted for President Trump.]
NewsClip:EPA Asked The Public Which Regs To Gut, And Got An Earful About Leaving Them Alone