On Wednesday the five voting members of DEP’s Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board on unconventional (Marcellus Shale) drilling submitted extensive comments to the Environmental Quality Board on DEP’s final Chapter 78A drilling regulations.
The voting members of TAB commend DEP for the hard work and commitment its staff has put into the regulatory development process, but makes a series of six recommendations on how the TAB could have been used more effectively.
The TAB comments listed concerns with the final regulations, including the protections for endangered species should be narrowed to meet the requirement of a recent procedural ruling by Commonwealth Court; how the restoration of water supplies damaged by drilling should not be returned to Safe Drinking Water standards or better; the extent to which drillers are required to identify abandoned wells in the area of drilling; well site restoration; and other issues.
The voting members of TAB also said the guidance and forms needed to implement the regulation should be completed prior to enforcement of the regulations.
The voting members of TAB include: Bryan McConnell, P.G., Tenaska, Inc.; Fred Baldassare, P.G., ECHELON Applied Geoscience Consulting; Robert Hendricks, P.G., Shell Exploration and Production Company; Casey Saunders, P.E., CONSOL Energy; and David Yoxtheimer, P.G., Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, Penn State University.
Non-Voting Member Comments
The comments of the three non-voting members of TAB were also included in the report sent to the EQB. The comments reviewed the extensive public participation tools DEP used in the process of developing the regulations, including adding additional members to TAB to provide other points of view.
“These rules are intended to provide for the safe, efficient, and environmentally sound production of Pennsylvania’s oil and gas resources.
“Throughout the extensive public process, concerns have been expressed that either the regulations are too restrictive on industry, or that they are not restrictive enough to adequately protect the public health and the environment.
“As with any rulemaking, these will always be some degree of disagreement. It is the job of the PA DEP to balance the comments received, and, based on their own experience and the laws of the Commonwealth, promulgate regulations they believe to be reasonable and necessary for the protection of the environment.
“We believe the need and authority for this rulemaking is clear, the rules are based on sound science and engineering and the PA DEP has taken unparalleled steps to consult with industry and the public in their formation.
"As such, we endorse advance of the rulemaking.”
The non-voting members include: Michael Griffin, PhD, Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University; Emily Krafjack, Connection for Oil, Gas & Environment in the Northern Tier; and John Walliser, PA Environmental Council.
A copy of the comments is available online.
Industry Reaction - Unconventional Drillers
Marcellus Shale Coalition president David Spigelmyer issued the following statement regarding the Department of Environmental Protection’s release of its final rulemaking regarding oil and gas operations:
“Pennsylvania is already well-recognized for having among the nation’s strongest and most effective environmental and enforcement standards, which the industry has worked hard to modernize. Unfortunately, DEP failed to consult with the industry regarding its comprehensive comments, as well as to better understand the cost of compliance with this rulemaking as they had done with the initial proposal in 2013. As reflected in our comments, this rulemaking will cost Pennsylvania job creators nearly $2 billion annually without providing meaningful environmental benefits.
“We have worked in good-faith to provide constructive comments on this proposed rule. We stand ready to work collaboratively with DEP and the General Assembly to advance common-sense policies that work for all Pennsylvanians.”
Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association President Louis D. D’Amico today issued the following statement regarding the state Department of Environmental Protection’s transmittal of the final oil and natural gas regulations (Chapter 78 and 78a) to the Environmental Quality Board:
“The development of these regulations over the past four years has been flawed to the point of being fraudulent. The modernization of environmental controls was required by Act 13 for the unconventional industry and yet, despite working on these regulations since 2011, DEP has still not explained or shown the need to make them applicable to the conventional industry.
“The reasonableness of these rulemaking packages is not determined by the volume of materials accompanying them, and DEP’s touting its responses to ‘every one of the almost 28,000 comments’ received is disingenuous because many of those comments were form letters and, more importantly, DEP’s responses come too late in the process to have any legitimacy or merit.
“Just as disingenuous is DEP’s reference to the ’20 meetings with the Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board and Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee’ as some type of evidence this has been an ‘exercise in transparency in rulemaking.’ One must remember that in the middle of this rulemaking process this administration quietly replaced all of the long-serving and dedicated TAB members and violated the Oil and Gas Act by trying to add new ‘non-voting’ members, and yet still failed to engage TAB and the Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee in the required ‘consultation’ or to provide both with the required ‘reasonable opportunity to review and comment prior to submission of the packages to the EQB.
“Repeated references by this administration to whatever it proposes as ‘common sense’ cannot magically transform any of them, especially these rulemakings. We look forward to pressing on with our fight against this abuse of process and extreme regulatory overreach these rulemakings represent.”
EQB Consideration Of Regulation Feb. 3
DEP released the final version of the Chapter 78 (conventional) and Chapter 78A (unconventional) drilling regulations Wednesday.
The Environmental Quality Board is scheduled to meet on February 3 to consider the final regulations.
Unconventional Drilling Advisory Committee Meeting Jan. 14
The next meeting of DEP’s Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board (unconventional Marcellus Shale drilling) is January 14 to consider other issues, including: Review of Forms Required To Implement Chapter 78; Review of Technical Guidance To Implement Chapter 78; DCNR Presentation On PA Natural Diversity Inventory Review System; Presentation on EPA Clean Power Climate Plan Requirements; and Well Completion, Waste Reporting, Drilling/Coal Mining Coordination.
The meeting will be held in Room 105 of the Rachel Carson Building starting at 10:00 a.m. Meetings of the Committee are frequently webcast, but no information has been posted yet on that option.
For more information, visit DEP’s Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee webpage. DEP Contact: Kurt Klapkowski, Office of Oil and Gas Management, 400 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101, 717-772-2199, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conventional Committee Meeting Jan. 13
The Committee’s next meeting is on January 13 at the same location, time and with a similar agenda. The DEP contact is the same.
The final version of the Chapter 78 (conventional) & 78A (unconventional) drilling regulations is available on the Environmental Quality Board webpage along with other supporting materials.
For more background information on how the Chapter 78 regulations were developed, visit DEP’s Oil and Gas Management Regulations webpage.
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