Wednesday, February 3, 2016

EQB Overwhelmingly Approves Final Chapter 78 Drilling Regulations

The Environmental Quality Board Wednesday voted overwhelmingly (15 to 4) to approve DEP’s final Chapter 78 (conventional) and 78A (unconventional) drilling regulations, after voting down 17 amendments to the regulation by three of the legislative members of the Board.
The final regulations address surface activities at well sites, and center on five core areas:  Improve protection of water resources; Add public resources considerations; Protect public health and safety; Address landowner concerns; and Enhance transparency and improve data management.
“These updated rules are long overdue and it’s time to get them across the finish line for the protection of public health, for industry certainty, and for the protection of our state’s environment,” said DEP Secretary John Quigley. “The changes are incremental, balanced, and appropriate, and are the result of one of the most transparent and engaged public processes in the history of the agency.”
The final rulemaking represents the first comprehensive changes to DEP’s drilling regulations in 15 years, since 2001, and was developed in response to changes in drilling technology and practices and legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2012 and signed into law by Gov. Corbett.
The regulation has been subject to the most extensive public participation process in DEP’s history-- 12 public hearings, 2 separate public comment periods, and more than a dozen public meetings with the oil & gas advisory committees.
EQB Consideration Of Regulation
Here’s a quick overview of the EQB consideration of the regulations--
-- John Arway, Executive Director of the Fish and Boat Commission, said he has professional experience working for the Commission dealing with oil and gas issues as well as personal experience being a landowner where oil and gas drilling is being done.  He urged the EQB to approve the regulation
-- Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, asked why DEP was going ahead with the regulation when two of its advisory committees recommended not to.  Scott Perry, DEP Deputy Secretary for Oil and Gas Management, said DEP does have a disagreement with the panels over several issues, including on restoring drinking water supplies polluted by drilling, standards used for cleaning up spills and on locating abandoned wells.  Perry noted later, the drilling industry refused to provide DEP with their maps identifying abandoned wells which lead to the provisions in the final regulation.
-- Burt Waite, DEP Citizens Advisory Council and a member of DEP’s Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee, offered an amendment to bifurcate the regulation for voting by the Board into conventional (Chapter 78) and unconventional (Chapter 78A).   The motion failed 5 to 14.
-- Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny), Majority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, offered a series of 9 amendments to the regulations all of which were voted down by the Board by votes generally of 5 or 6 to 13 or 14.  Those voting for the amendments, sometimes in different combinations, included Rep. Maher, Sen. Yaw, Sen. John Yudichak’s representative (Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee), Bill Fink, Chair of DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council, and Burt Waite, DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council and sometimes Don Welsh, DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council.
-- Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) offered a series of 3 amendments to the regulation, all of which were voted down by the Board, again by votes generally of 5 or 6 to 13 or 14.
-- Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) alternate offered a series of 5 amendments to the regulation, all of which were voted down by the Board by votes generally of 5 or 6 to 13 or 14.
-- Rep. Maher: In a final statement, Rep. Maher said the EQB was being asked to break the law by voting for this final regulation because certain information was not provided to advisory and other decisionmaking bodies during the rulemaking process.  This he said, is not the transparency always being talked about.  Kim Childe, DEP Director of Regulatory Counsel, advised Board members DEP has met its legal obligations and procedures during the rulemaking process and it was entirely appropriate to vote on the regulation.
-- Sen. Yaw: In comments, Sen. Yaw said several members of his Committee has concerns about the way the regulations were put together, saying some provisions were a solution in search of a problem.
Click Here to watch a video of the meeting.
The next step in finalizing the regulations is review by the Office of Attorney General for form and legality and then forwarding to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission and the Senate and House for their review under the Regulatory Review Act.
A copy of the regulation changes, an Executive Summary, comment/response documents, a one page summary, the Regulatory Analysis Form summarizing the cost of the rules, reports from DEP’s unconventional and conventional oil and gas advisories comments and a fact sheet on the regulation is on the Environmental Quality Board webpage.
Board Approves new Rules For Gas, Oil Drillers

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