As a result of legislation adopted by the General Assembly last year, DEP is now required to separate regulations for conventional wells and unconventional wells, thus we now have 78 and 78 A to cover both types of drilling.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) held the first of three public hearings on proposed Chapter 78 and Chapter 78A regulations at Washington and Jefferson College, Washington, PA on April 29th, 2015.
Over 70 speakers originally signed up to testify. Due to the limited length of the hearing which ran from 6 to 11 PM an estimated 55 speakers provided oral testimony to DEP at this hearing. A solid majority spoke in opposition to the proposed regulations and in support of continued conventional and unconventional gas drilling.
There was an excellent turnout of pro-energy advocates both, speakers and audience members. Representatives from PIOGA, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, and many energy companies were in attendance and expressed concerned about the proposed regulations.
Here is a list of some the regulatory concerns expressed by pro-energy speakers during the hearing:
- A new DEP proposal to authorize centralized tank storage. This proposal is vague and a required cost/benefit analysis was not completed by DEP as required by state law. Also, these standards apply only to natural gas drilling, not other industries.
- “Due diligence” would be mandated on drillers regarding the identification of nearby orphaned and/or abandoned wells. DEP doesn’t really explain how this will be accomplished. Therefore, the rules would be challenging for drillers to comply with.
- DEP is proposing a new noise mitigation provision which is very vague and non-specific in its definition. DEP would have the authority to shut down a well if the driller is not in compliance. Historically, DEP has never been very involved with noise regulations. The agency has limited experience in noise issues.
- DEP is setting up a new definition for “other critical communities” which is defined as plant and animal species that are not listed as threatened or endangered by a public resource agency, including plant and animal species that are classified as rare and tentatively undetermined. What this means is that plants or animals not on the endangered species list could be used to stop natural gas drilling by advocates like the Delaware Riverkeepers. Drilling opponents could contact DEP to stop drilling at sites across Pennsylvania.
- DEP is interested in mandating monthly waste reporting from drillers.
The many pro-energy supporters testifying did an excellent job of highlighting the points above for DEP review. Also, conventional as well as unconventional drilling was well represented at the hearing.
All those who participated in this hearing are commended for their willingness to speak up for natural gas exploration in Pennsylvania.
Written testimony can be presented to DEP. Deadline for submission to DEP is May 19, 2015. Please feel free to contact me at or via phone at 412-848-5900 if you need any assistance in preparing testimony.