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Budget mischief?

As they scramble to cobble together a budget before tonight's fiscal-year deadline, Republican legislative leaders are inserting some last-minute - and controversial - language into one of the budget bills that has environmental groups up in arms.

The language essentially would require state regulators to treat two types of drilling differently: deep, modern gas wells (i.e, Marcellus Shale drilling) and traditional shallow wells. There are currently bills in both the House and the Senate to do just that, but they have not been debated on the floor.

Environmental groups say inserting the language into the fiscal code is tantamount to circumventing the legislative process, including debate on the floor. They also say they object to the fact that the proposed language does not make it clear what the new regulations would be for traditional shallow wells.

The bills' sponsors, including Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson), told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this year the major overhaul of Pennsylvania's oil and gas law that passed in 2012 inadvertently applied some regulations targeted for Marcellus Shale drillers to what he called "mom and pop businesses" that operate smaller wells.

"Clearly, the legislative intent was not to include conventional drilling and wells into this," he told the newspaper.

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