New Pennsylvania Gas Drilling Regulations Pass by Unanimous Vote

DEP Sec. Hanger praises vote, Regulations Move to Attorney General for Approval

HARRISBURG — A set of new standards that will make natural gas wells safer were approved unanimously today on a vote of 5-0 by the state’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission, Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said today.

Hanger praised the IRRC vote, saying the new regulations will, among other things, impose more stringent construction standards on gas wells, making them less likely to allow natural gas to escape and contaminate water supplies or cause safety concerns.

The final-form regulations now go to the state Office of Attorney General for final review and approval. The regulations were deemed approved by the House and Senate Environmental Resources and Energy committees.

“When gas migrates from a poorly constructed gas well through the ground, it can contaminate water supplies or build up to explosive levels in water wells or even homes,” said Hanger. “These strong rules will eliminate or significantly reduce the problem of gas migration from poorly designed or constructed gas wells, as long as the rules are followed or enforced.”

Hanger added that the new rules also will require drillers to report production and waste volumes electronically and to submit a detailed report of the chemicals they use in the hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – process. In addition to these important provisions, operators will be required to keep a list of emergency contact phone numbers at the well site and follow a new set of instructions on what steps to take in the event of a gas migration incident.

The regulations also include provisions clarifying how and when blow-out prevention equipment is to be installed and operated.

The Environmental Quality Board approved the regulations on a final vote of 15-1 in October, after receiving nearly 2,000 public comments during the comment period and a series of five public hearings. A majority of the comments supported the new regulations.

In drafting the regulations, DEP also met with numerous oil and gas operators, industry groups and environmental groups to discuss the regulations in detail.

The department used the public’s input to make several important changes to the regulations, which further improved the well-design requirements to prevent gas migration incidents, including:

· A provision that requires operators to have a pressure barrier plan to minimize well control events;
· A provision that requires operators to condition the wellbore to ensure an adequate bond between the cement, casing and the formation;
· Provisions that require the use of centralizers to ensure casings are properly positioned in the wellbore; and
· A provision that improves the quality of the cement placed in the casing that protects fresh groundwater.

Once all reviews and approvals are obtained, the regulations will go into effect upon publication in the PA Bulletin.

For more information, visit www.depweb.state.pa,us, and select “Public Participation.”


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