The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Wednesday voted 18 to 5 to amend Senate Bill 279 (Hutchinson-R-Venango), which establishes the PA Grade Crude Development Advisory Council, with language abrogating DEP’s Chapter 78 conventional drilling regulations and forcing the agency to start the rulemaking process over.
Chapter 78a drilling regulations, which apply to Marcellus and Utica Shale drilling, will be allowed to move forward to final publication, according to Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming), who supported the amendment, but expressed concerns about the potential impact of the DEP regulations covering unconventional drilling operations.
The amendment, agreed to by the Governor’s Office and House Republicans, according to Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny), Majority Chair of the Committee, does not limit the content of any future regulations on conventional drilling nor does it amend any provisions of the Act 13 drilling law which applies to both conventional and unconventional (Marcellus and Utica Shale) drilling.
StateImpact reported after the meeting, Gov. Wolf’s spokesman, Jeff Sheridan, declined to say whether the administration approved the amendment.
He did issue a statement later saying: “The administration can confirm the unconventional oil and gas regulations will be published and we will continue to work with the legislature to reach agreement on the conventional regulations.”
Part of the agreement arrived at by with the Governor’s Office was for the House to forgo any action on House Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution #1 that would kill both Chapter 78 and 78a.
The House and Senate, in fact, lost their chance to act on the resolution when it expired on June 9.
At the Committee meeting, Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware), Minority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, made a motion questioning the constitutionality of the amendment because it would violate the single-subject rule in crafting legislation.
That motion was voted down 18 to 5, with all the Republicans supporting along with three Democrats on the Committee.
Senate Bill 279 was then voted out of Committee by the same 18 to 5 vote.
The main provisions of Senate Bill 279 create the PA Grade Crude Development Advisory Council which will advise DEP on any future rulemakings related to conventional drilling operations, and has no authority to block any regulations.
On its own, DEP had set up its own Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee in March of last year to provide a similar function.
The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.
Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by sending email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to: email@example.com.
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