DEP Secretary John Quigley notified members of the Environmental Quality Board Monday the legal challenge to DEP’s final Chapter 78 conventional oil and gas drilling regulations by the PA Independent Petroleum Producers Association will be heard by Commonwealth Court April 7.
Secretary Quigley said DEP has received delegation from the Office of Attorney General to represent the Commonwealth in this case.
Since the Environmental Quality Board was named separately in the lawsuit, Secretary Quigley said DEP it has retained outside counsel for the Board in the person of Adam Levine of Stradley, Ronon in Philadelphia.
Since pre-hearing briefs were due on April 5 (Tuesday), Secretary Quigley said the Board’s initial response to the lawsuit will be reviewed by him as Chair of the Board and will be forward to members of the Board when it is filed.
PIPPA challenged DEP final Chapter 78 drilling regulations saying they violated a provision in the 2014 Fiscal Code bill that required DEP to publish separate rules for conventional and unconventional drilling.
The lawsuit asks the Court to void the rules adopted as final by the Environmental Quality Board in February and to direct the rulemaking board to begin the regulatory process anew if it wants to create new regulations for conventional wells.The trade group also asked for an expedited review of its petition or for the court to stay the meeting of the Independent Regulatory Review Commission on April 21 where Chapter 78 (conventional) and 78a (unconventional) drilling regulations will be on the agenda for action.
The Commonwealth Court hearing will start at 1:00 in Courtroom 3001, Third Floor, PA Judicial Center, 601 Commonwealth Avenue in Harrisburg.
This is the first time since it was formed the Environmental Quality Board in 1971 that it has been represented by its own legal counsel. Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, reintroduced a bill-- Senate Bill 307 in January of 2015 to let the EQB select its own counsel. The bill passed the Senate in June of 2015 and is on the House Calendar awaiting action.
Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny), Majority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, introduced a companion bill-- House Bill 1099-- in May of 2015 and it passed the House in June of 2015 and remains in the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee awaiting action.