State Representative Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana, said he wants to open the door to help expand businesses and job opportunities in Pennsylvania.
It does so through a bill with 10 co-sponsors that would amend Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statutes to provide for well connection contracts.
“I am introducing House Bill 2528 to change the current practice of not allowing Pennsylvania businesses to participate in a key aspect of environmental stewardship,” Struzzi said in a press release this week.
He said these companies need access to more than $400 million in federal funding included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, signed into law. by President Biden on November 15, 2021.
The United States Department of the Interior said the law opened up $1.15 billion to states to create jobs by cleaning up orphan oil and gas wells across the country, including more than 400 million dollars for Pennsylvania.
Currently, however, Struzzi said, out-of-state companies receive preferential treatment from the state Department of Environmental Protection when bidding on contracts. to plug these wells.
Struzzi said the DEP limits opportunities to companies with more than 125 employees each, which would not include many companies that may be interested in west-central Pennsylvania.
“I want to make sure there are opportunities for local businesses,” Struzzi said.
Struzzi said the amount of opportunity might convince the DEP to change that condition. The DEP estimated that there are 26,000 known orphan oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, in addition to thousands of undocumented wells.
“These short-sighted policies are stifling our business community and driving jobs and dollars to other states,” he said. “My legislation would level the playing field for our businesses and take advantage of all that our energy-related industries have to offer here in the Commonwealth.”
Struzzi said a local business brought the matter to his attention.
“Given the number of wells that need to be repaired, the department is allowing revenue from these projects and the jobs needed to complete them to escape our borders and be handled by competitors in neighboring states,” Struzzi said. .
Struzzi’s co-sponsors include Rep. Brian Smith, R-Punxsutawney; House Majority Whip Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion; and at least one Democrat, Rep. Ed Neilson of Philadelphia.
The bill was referred to the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
Struzzi said he believed there was time for his bill to make its way through the General Assembly, amid other activities such as the budget process.
A DEP spokesperson could not be reached for comment.