This week, the PA Environmental Council, Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA, Environmental Defense Fund, PA Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and the Western PA Conservancy submitted comments on the Department of Environmental Protection’s proposed final regulatory changes for Marcellus and other unconventional shale gas development.
The comments reflected both praise for recent environmental protection improvements to the proposed rulemaking, as well as suggestions for additional measures that are still needed.
“These regulations are long-overdue and will, eventually, enact provisions of Act 13 that was signed into law almost three-and-a-half years ago,” PEC President and CEO Davitt Woodwell said. “We are looking forward to getting them into place and continuing to address other pressing concerns with shale gas development, especially control of methane leakage and standards for pipeline development.”
The proposed rulemaking is a significant step forward from the previous version published in December of 2013.
The joint comments commended the Department on taking several steps forward, notably, requiring drillers to more proactively prevent migration of drilling fluids and gas to groundwater. This is a priority issue for Pennsylvania, where the state has over 300,000 active and abandoned wells that can act like straws to pull contaminants toward the surface.
The rulemaking also calls for the elimination of impoundment storage pits at well sites, coupled with more robust containment standards. This will greatly reduce not only the short-term chances of contamination, but also a potential long-term legacy of environmental impact.
The comments also applauded the Department on enhanced analysis and precautions for water sourcing and use, additional protections for public resources and features, and many others.
In addition to the requirements set forth in the revised rulemaking proposal, the organizations also believe the Department should improve the containment and inspection requirements for water and waste storage, develop clear standards for noise reduction, expand the list of protected public resources, and enhance and clarify a number of critical terms within the rulemaking.
The joint comments are available online.The public comment period on the regulations closed on May 19. For more information, visit DEP’s Oil and Gas Regulations webpage.