Monday, March 10, 2014

Legislation Related To Solid Waste Disposal Of Drill Cuttings Fails During Session

Lawmakers failed to enact HB 4411 (acceptance of drill cuttings by commercial solid waste facilities) during the 2014 regular legislative session, which ended March 8.  This bill was necessitated by the fact that commercial solid waste facilities in the oil and natural gas producing areas of the state were operating under a special ruling from DEP, which permitted them to accept drill cuttings even if that action caused the facility to exceed its approved monthly waste cap.  Environmental groups and a number of key members of the House of Delegates targeted this bill as a way to impede the natural gas industry’s Marcellus development by seeking requirements that would have eliminated the ability of waste facilities to accept drill cuttings unless they had already applied for a new permit to construct a site specifically dedicated to the disposal of cuttings.  The Senate had a totally opposite view that took the interests of the natural gas industry and the waste disposal facilities into account.

The bill went to a conference committee of delegates and senators and an agreement was reached but not implemented on a timely basis for reasons that only the chairman of the House conference committee, Delegate Barbara Fleischauer (D-Monongalia) can explain.  As a result, no bill was passed and, while the current order of the DEP Secretary remains in place to protect the acceptance of drill cuttings by the waste disposal facilities affected by this issue, there is a fear that litigation will be brought challenging the Secretary’s authority to take this action.  There is no indication at this point whether this issue would be added to the Legislature’s agenda while they are still in town this week to complete next year’s fiscal budget.