On Friday, Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango) introduced Senate Bill 1011 amends the Fiscal Code to prohibit the Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Quality Board from finalizing and adopting Chapter 78 conventional oil and gas drilling regulations now pending.
The bill declares the procedures used by DEP to develop the regulation to be “invalid” and not in compliance with the Regulatory Review Act.
The bill stipulates any future rulemaking proposals covering conventional oil and gas wells must be accompanied by a Regulatory Analysis Form.
During House and Senate budget hearings, Republican members expressed concern about DEP moving ahead with a proposed final version of the drilling regulations with only a limited comment period and the process used to finalize the regulations.
Republican members, and representatives of the conventional oil and gas drilling industry, also were concerned about the impact of the regulations DEP proposed for the conventional drilling industry.
The drilling industry has threatened to file a lawsuit against DEP on the process used to develop the regulations and move the to final action.The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee has scheduled an information meeting on the Chapter 78 and 78A regulations for October 26 to explore issues similar to those raised in Senate Bill 1011.
DEP has documented through hundreds of photographs and in its most recent Oil and Gas Annual Report how conventional oil and gas drillers have at least 3 times the violations of unconventional (Marcellus Shale) drillers over the years.
The fact is DEP did separate its drilling regulations into those affecting conventional drillers-- Chapter 78-- and those covering unconventional drillers-- Chapter 78A-- as required by the requirements of Act 126, plus held three public hearings.
It is ironic that conventional drillers are so concerned about the regulatory process, when this provision requiring the separation of the regulations was slipped into the Fiscal Code bill in 2014 without public review or notice based on legislation that neither the House nor the Senate ever voted on.
The conventional drilling industry has maintained since the original Oil and Gas Act was passed in 1984 that its actions have a “benign” impact on the environment. In fact in legislation sponsored last year-- Senate Bill 1378 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson) and House Bill 2350 (Causer-R- Cameron)-- they said exactly that.
It was interesting to see an article in the Tribune Review on August 23 attempting to romanticize the lives of conventional oil well operators who proudly say they pump oil the same way it was done in the 19th century and that state law and DEP regulations in effect since 1984 requiring, among other things, safely plugging wells operators abandoned, would be too much for them to bear.
This is the same romantic notion that has left Pennsylvania’s landscape littered with more than 325,000 abandoned oil and gas wells, easy pathways to polluting groundwater, since the first wells were drilled in the Commonwealth in 1859.
This myth is exactly that, a myth. The facts are--
1. Conventional wells cause water loss and contamination just like unconventional wells;
2. Conventional wells have more violations than unconventional wells;
3. Both kinds of wells use fracking;
4. Conventional wells are drilled through the same sensitive aquifers;
5. Conventional wells create a bigger footprint on the land; and6. Smaller companies with fewer resources to deal with problems drill conventional wells.
Related Stories:House Environmental Committee Meets On Drilling Regulations Oct. 26