Pennsylvania Tightening Standards For Gas Drilling

Potter County Today

scottperrydepA concerted effort continues to strengthen Pennsylvania’s oversight of the gas-drilling industry as regulators race to keep up with increased Marcellus Shale exploration and production. Scott Perry, director of oil and gas management for the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP), summarized the regulatory changes on Monday at the Natural Gas Summit at State College.

“We have a right to demand that this industry is held to a world-class standard,” Perry said. “The goal is just that, but we have a way to go yet before we get there.” He cited incidents of shallow gas migration in Dimock (Susquehanna County) and an explosion and fire in Clearfield County as examples of substandard industry practices that will not be tolerated. However, Perry hastened to add that water pollution incidents documented in Pennsylvania have not been caused by hydrofracturing of Marcellus Shale, which is located far below the water table.

The director said Pennsylvania’s stronger well construction standards are on their way to becoming law; they will be reviewed by the Environmental Quality Board tomorrow. The state also has passed strict limits on discharges into public waterways and doubled the number of gas and oil well inspectors in DEP, Perry said.

Although there is great focus on Marcellus Shale as a source abundant natural gas, there are other shale formations both above and below the Marcellus that contain gas and will likely be tapped, ensuring that the industry will continue to operate in the state for decades.

“Pennsylvanians need to prepare for this,” Perry advised. “In fact, I think Pennsylvania is sitting on the biggest gas reserve in the entire world.”

Also addressing the audience was Rick Simmers, a mineral resources enforcement coordinator with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. He suggested that Pennsylvania follow Ohio’s model of requiring a series of notifications to counties, emergency services agencies and other organizations from a gas well’s planning stages to its continued operations.

Simmers said Ohio has been monitoring Marcellus Shale gas production in other states, but he expressed frustration with media coverage, internet reports and other published information. “Often, they don’t get it right and then when it’s published that way, others see it and repeat the misinformation,” he lamented.

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