Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Respond To Media Reports On Filing Lawsuit To Block DEP’s Drilling Regs

Mark Cline, President of the PA Independent Petroleum Producers Association, Tuesday responded to media coverage of its announcement of the trade group’s lawsuit seeking to overturn DEP’s final Chapter 78 (conventional) drilling regulations update now going through its final regulatory reviews..
The Commonwealth Court has scheduled oral arguments on the lawsuit April 7.
Here is the text of Cline’s response--
My name is Mark Cline. I am the President of the Pennsylvania Independent Petroleum Producers (PIPP) and a member of the Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee (COGAC). I am writing in response to your Daily Environmental Blog from March 24, 2016.
On Thursday March 24, 2016 PIPP filed a lawsuit against PA DEP, the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC.) We have sued because EQB, via Act 126 of 2014, was instructed to promulgate regulations for the Conventional and Unconventional oil and gas industries separately.
Act 126, passed by state legislators and signed by Governor Corbett, mandated the Department bifurcate the conventional and unconventional regulatory instruments of the Oil and Gas Act.
DEP instead employed a word processing exercise and delivered two virtually identical documents in Chapter 78 for conventional operations and Chapter 78a for unconventional.  
These “separate” sets of regulations, after yet another period of public comment and advanced notice of final rulemaking were then sent to EQB in January of 2016 as one package. Two sets of regulations but only one up or down vote.  That is not separate. As such, we believe these regulations are unlawful.
With regard to your claim that conventional operators have incurred three times as many violations as the unconventional, perhaps some factual insight will paint a more accurate picture…There have been 9,884 unconventional wells drilled in the Commonwealth as of my sitting down to write this response. In that same time span there have been 29,269 conventional wells drilled.
There are also over 100,000 additional conventional wells currently in safe operation. Considering this skewed ratio it is no surprise that the conventional operators incur more violations.
What you claim to be facts:
1) Conventional wells cause water loss and contamination just like unconventional wells.
During the Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory meeting on March 26th in Harrisburg, Kurt Klapkowski made this statement; “Conventional industry’s impact is relatively temporary in nature. You don’t see long term impacts necessarily”. On the rare occasion that water supplies are affected by conventional activities it clears up in a short period of time. Also, polluting the waters of the Commonwealth is already a violation of the Oil and Gas Act.
2) Conventional wells have more violations than unconventional wells.
The DEP 2014 Oil and Gas Annual Report states: “In 2014, 1,449 violations were identified at conventional sites, and 412 violations were observed at unconventional well sites.” What it failed to point out from its own online reports was that:
a) Conventional well sites outnumbered unconventional well sites by more than 12:1 in 2014. (121,988 active conventional wells, 9,848 active unconventional wells).  This reveals that there was 1 violation for every 84 conventional wells, as opposed to 1 violation for every 24 unconventional wells.  
b) Of the 12,703 inspections of conventional operations conducted in 2014, 11,905 inspections did not reveal any violations. That is a 93.7% compliance rate. That is an amazing statistic given that the Department has turned up the heat on our industry in recent years with more inspectors conducting 24% more inspections than in 2008.
c) 40% of the violations identified in conventional operations (583) in 2014 were merely administrative violations, not environmental health and safety violations.
d) 12 operators were responsible for over 45% of all the violations identified.
3) Both unconventional and conventional industries employ frac’ing..
While this is true the techniques are completely different. The conventional industry drills vertical wells usually no more than 2,500 feet deep. Our fractures propagate no more than 150 feet horizontally from the well bore. A typical conventional frac stage uses a few thousand gallons of water and about 80 sacks of sand. Unconventional wells are much deeper and “kickoff” horizontally up to 9,000 feet in different directions. Along this 9,000 foot section dozens of stages are frac’d with millions of gallons of water and chemicals.
4) Conventional wells are drilled through the same sensitive aquifers.
This is true. There are very clear regulations that have been in place since the implementation of Act 223, The Oil and Gas Act of 1984 that protect these aquifers through the use of cemented-in casing strings.
5) Conventional wells create a bigger footprint on the land.
Even if you take all the 121,988 conventional well locations we are still 3.5 times smaller than the footprint of the unconventional.
a) Forty-three conventional locations can fit onto one unconventional location.
b) Conventional location roads are very small, usually 12 feet wide.
c) The unconventional industry builds two lane roads as they need larger roads to accommodate the heavy truck traffic. They do a better job of building roads than most townships and the Forest Service.
d) Conventional pipeline right-of-ways bear little to no impact as they are most often buried in the ditches of our location and access roads.
e) The unconventional need wide, expansive right-of-ways that impact many surface property owners for many miles.
6)  Smaller Companies, Fewer Resources? When water resources are polluted it is the obligation under current regulation for the company responsible to fix the problem.  There is no precedent where taxpayers have had to pick up the bill for the infractions of a single conventional producer.
Small businesses are the backbone of the conventional oil and gas industry of this Commonwealth.  Your comments are an insult to an industry that has persevered through booms and busts for over 155 years and whose products benefit every single person living in this Commonwealth.
Of the conventional operators in the Commonwealth today, virtually all are small businesses. In a corner of Pennsylvania that Industry has largely abandoned, small business is what makes our economy work. Thousands of Pennsylvanians rely on the conventional oil and gas industry to provide a living for their families.  
The Chapter 78 regulations, if implemented and enforced as written, would be the end of this industry. It is time that Harrisburg realizes that there is life West of the Susquehanna River. Environmentalists make the production of fossil fuels an issue of morality.  
Are their very lives not enriched by the products produced by this industry? How is it not an issue of morality to potentially put thousands of people out of work and decimate communities that once helped make this State the crucible that forged the future?
Mark Cline
Related Story:
Analysis: Myth-- Conventional Oil and Gas Drilling Is Benign

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