Thursday, September 1, 2016

Commonwealth Court: DEP Can Protect Public Resources In Oil & Gas Permits

Commonwealth Court Thursday turned back a challenge to DEP's Oil and Gas Regulatory Program from conventional oil and gas drillers saying in a ruling DEP does have authority to protect public resources, like drinking water supplies, in its program.
The PA Independent Oil and Gas Association petitioned the court to say DEP cannot apply and enforce Section 3215(c) of the 2012 Act 13 drilling law to protect public resources because the 2013 Robinson Township decision by the PA Supreme Court enjoined application of the provision.
Section 3215(c) directed DEP to consider the impact of a proposed well on public resources like: publicly owned parks, forests, game lands and wildlife areas; National or State scenic rivers; national natural landmarks; habitats of rare and endangered flora and fauna and other critical communities; historical and archaeological sites listed on the Federal or State list of historic places; and sources used for public drinking supplies in accordance with subsection.
The Court concluded: “In Act 13, the General Assembly unambiguously expressed its intent that the EQB promulgate regulatory criteria that DEP must use “for conditioning a well permit based on its impact to the public resources identified under [Section 3215(c)] and for ensuring optimal development of oil and gas resources and respecting property rights of oil and gas owners.”
“Today’s ruling is important for DEP’s permitting of oil and gas wells across Pennsylvania," DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell said. "It unconditionally confirms that the department has legal authority under Act 13 (the 2012 Oil and Gas Act) to consider the impact that a proposed well site will have on public and natural resources. This decision will assist DEP in its work to ensure responsible development of natural resources in Pennsylvania.”
A copy of the Court ruling is available online.
Commonwealth Court Sides With DEP On Drilling Rules

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