The West Virginia legislature passed H.B. 107 during the first special legislative session, amending §§22-15-8 and 11 of the West Virginia Code, creating requirements for legal disposal of drill cuttings and associated drilling waste from well sites. The new legislation requires that the drill cuttings be stored in a separate cell in a landfill dedicated to such waste, and imposes monitoring requirements and additional fees for disposal sites. This waste disposal is regulated by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP).
Where Can Drill Cuttings and Associated Drilling Waste Be Received?
Subject to conditions and limitations, any commercial solid waste facility that is not located in a county that is within a karst region, in whole or in part, may accept drill cuttings and associated waste above monthly tonnage limits, provided certain conditions are met:
- The drill cuttings and associated drilling waste must be placed in a separate cell in the landfill dedicated solely to this waste;
- The separate cell must be constructed and maintained pursuant to the standards set forth in statute and legislative rules;
- The solid waste facility must have obtained a certificate of need or an amended certificate of need authorizing such a separate cell, or applied for either on or before March 8, 2014;
- The solid waste facility must have applied for a permit modification to construct a separate cell for drill cuttings and associated waste by December 31, 2013 or it may not accept drill cuttings in excess of the landfill’s permitted monthly tonnage limits;
- Radiation monitors must be installed by January 1, 2015;
- WVDEP shall promulgate rules for limits for unique toxins associated with drilling, including, but not limited to, heavy metals and petroleum-related chemicals, such as benzene, toluene, xylene, barium, chlorides, radium, and radon; and
- By rule, WVDEP will establish that any detected radiation readings above established radiation limits will require the solid waste landfill to immediately cease acceptance of all affected drill cuttings and waste until WVDEP has inspected the site and verified that the radiation levels have returned below the set limits.
If a solid waste facility does not have a properly constructed and maintained cell for drill cuttings and if the certificate of need or amended certificate of need is not in process, then the facility may continue to accept drill cuttings mixed with municipal solid waste, but it may not exceed its total permitted volume capacity for any month, and the drill cuttings waste counts towards that monthly total.
Karst regions are determined by the West Virginia Geologic and Economic Survey.
Solid Waste Assessment Fees and the “Gas Field Highway Repair and Horizontal Drilling Waste Study Fund”
The new legislation imposes an additional solid waste assessment fee on drill cuttings and waste of $1 per ton, in addition to all other fees and taxes levied against the waste.
The new fees will fund, in part, the Gas Field Highway Repair and Horizontal Drilling Waste Study Fund, to be administered by the West Virginia Division of Highways, for the improvement, maintenance, and repair of public roads that are located within the watershed from which the revenue was received, are three lanes or less, and have been damaged by trucks associated with horizontal well drilling sites. WVDEP receives up to $750,000 in funds for contract costs associated with horizontal drilling waste disposal studies.
Horizontal Drilling Waste Disposal Study
The WVDEP is charged with presenting to the Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on Water Resources and to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance on or before July 1, 2015, an investigation and report that examines:
- Hazardous characteristics of leachate from solid waste facilities that accept drill cuttings and waste, including, heavy metals and petroleum-related chemicals, such as benzene, toluene, xylene, barium, chlorides, radium, and radon;
- Potential negative impacts to surface waters or ground waters from the disposal of drilling cuttings and waste;
- Technical and economic feasibility and benefits from separate or additional locations that are funded, constructed, owned and/or operated by the oil and gas industry; and
- Viable alternatives for handling the treatment and disposal of drilling cuttings and associated waste, including the potential for processing, reusing and reapplying drill cuttings as fill materials for roads, brownfields, and other projects.
This article was authored by Kelley M. Goes with Jackson Kelly PLLC.