PA Senate Bill 307 – Provides for independent counsel for the Environmental Quality Board
Sponsor: John T. Yudichak (Democrat – Carbon County and part of Luzerne County [northeast Pennsylvania])
Overview: Requires the Department of Environmental Protection to appoint independent counsel for the benefit of the Environmental Quality Board (“EQB”).Independent counsel shall assist EQB on all matters, “including, but not limited to, the review of rulemaking petitions submitted to the [EQB], the drafting and development of amendments to proposed and final rulemaking and advice relating to procedural matters.”

Provides that discussions between independent counsel and EQB are privileged.

Amendments: Printer’s Number 1138:Changes scope of privilege; as amended, bill would provide that “[a]ll communication between the independent counsel and a board member shall be subject to the attorney-client privilege consistent with the rules of professional conduct.”
Current Status: Original bill passed unanimously by Senate on June 25, 2015.Printer’s Number 1138 reported (20-6) out of House Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy on June 29, 2015.

 

PA Senate Bill 655 – Amendments to Fiscal Code
Sponsor: Patrick M. Browne (Republican – part of Lehigh County [Allentown])
Overview: As introduced, did not have impact on oil and gas development.
Amendments: Printer’s Number 1137:Companion bill to annual state budget containing extensive amendments to fiscal code on variety of matters generally not related to oil and gas development.

Prohibits adoption or promulgations by Environmental Quality Board (“EQB”) of revisions to 25 Pa. Code Ch. 78 (“Chapter 78”) relating to conventional oil and gas wells that were promulgated before effective date of bill.

Declares that EQB’s Chapter 78 rulemaking related to conventional oil and gas wells “is invalid as not in compliance with the rulemaking standards of the” Regulatory Review Act.

Current Status: Printer’s Number 1137 reported (20-15) out of House Committee on Appropriations on June 28, 2015.Printer’s Number 1137 passed by House (107-87) on June 29, 2015.

Printer’s Number 1137 reported (11-6) out of Senate Committee on Rules and Executive Nominations on June 30, 2015.

Printer’s Number 1137 passed by Senate (30-19) on June 30, 2015.Vetoed by Governor Tom Wolf on July 2, 2015.

 

PA Senate Bill 875 – Treated Mine Water Act
Sponsor: Camera Bartolotta (Greene County and parts of Beaver and Washington counties [southwestern Pennsylvania])
Overview: Provides immunity from liability to mine operators for use of treated mine water used in oil or gas well development.Provides immunity from liability for treatment or abatement of mine drainage or mine pool water to persons who acquire treated mine water for use in oil or gas development.

Does not remove liability for unlawful spills or releases.

Treated mine water that meets the effluent limits of the NPDES permit for the source mine and is being used for oil or gas development shall not be considered a solid waste as defined by the Solid Waste Management Act.

Current Status: Reported (10-1) out of Senate Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy on June 22, 2015.Passed by Senate (34-15) on June 25, 2015.

Reported (24-2) out of House Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy on June 29, 2015.

 

PA House Bill 48 – Water Well Standards (see also PA House Bill 81 – identical when introduced)
Sponsor: Robert W. Godshall (Republican – part of Montgomery County [outside Philadelphia]; Chair of Consumer Affairs Committee)
Overview: Establishes Chapter 33 of Title 27, setting forth private water well construction standards, including powers and duties of Department of Environmental Protection and penalties for noncompliance.“Construction” section states that Chapter shall not be construed to allow:

  • the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources to require a permit for construction/decommissioning of water wells; or
  • the Commonwealth or any municipality, agency, department, or division thereof to “meter, charge, tax or otherwise impose a fee for the usage of private water wells in this Commonwealth.”
Amendments: Printer’s Number 1884:Requires the Environmental Quality Board (“EQB”) to promulgate standards for well construction and decommissioning that are consistent with those recommended by the American National Standards Institute or National Ground Water Association, removing discretion given under previous version allowing for “similar” standards as the EQB “deems necessary.”
Current Status: Referred to the House Committee on Consumer Affairs on January 21, 2015.Printer’s Number 1884 reported unanimously out of the House Committee on Consumer Affairs on June 24, 2015.

*PA House Bill 48, as introduced, is a reintroduction of PA House Bill 343 from the 2013-2014 session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

 

PA House Bill 1363 – Natural Gas Severance Tax
Sponsor: Gene DiGirolamo (Republican – part of Bucks County [outside Philadelphia])
Overview: Extensive natural gas severance tax bill imposing a tax of (1) “[t]hree and two-tenths percent of the gross value of the dry natural gas derived from the natural gas severed as shown by the gross proceeds derived from the sale by the producer,” and (2) “[t]hree and two-tenths percent of the gross value of the natural gas liquids derived from the natural gas severed as shown by the gross proceeds derived from the sale by the producer.”Does not set a price floor.

Allows Impact Fee to expire.

Alters distribution scheme for Impact Fee revenue.

Prohibits producer from making the tax an obligation of the landowner or leaseholder.Requires every producer to obtain a license from the Department of Revenue (“Department”) “before severing natural gas from this Commonwealth.”Imposes criminal penalties for severing gas without a license from the Department.

Current Status: Referred to House Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy on June 29, 2015.

 

PA House Bill 1391 – Amendments to Oil and Gas Lease Act
Sponsor: Garth D. Everett (Republican – parts of Lycoming and Union counties [northern Pennsylvania])
Overview: Adds definitions for “lessee,” “lessor,” “operator,” “production unit,” “royalty,” “royalty payment,” “unconventional formation,” and “unconventional gas well.”Requires that the minimum royalty payment to a lessor shall not be less than one-eighth of the price received by operator.

Prohibits deductions for “any” costs that would reduce royalty below one-eighth.

Applies to existing and future leases.

Provides civil remedy for failure to pay minimum royalty, including an award of attorney fees and treble damages if operator was notified by lessor of deficient payments and failed to cure within 60 days.

Current Status: Referred to House Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy on June 29, 2015.