Thursday, April 30, 2015

PA Environmental Council Offers Comments At First Hearing On DEP Drilling Regs

John Walliser, PA Environmental Council’s vice president for Legal and Government Affairs, offered these comments on the Chapter 78 (conventional) and Chapter 78A (unconventional) proposed final regulations on drilling at DEP’s first hearing on the package Wednesday in Washington County.
Good evening. My name is John Walliser and I am a Vice President with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), a statewide membership organization.
We commend the Department for making improvements to the environmental protection provisions in the proposed rulemaking, and for allowing further public comment. Chief among those improvements are more robust pre-drilling analysis to prevent pollution migration, more detailed analysis and reporting with respect to protection of water resources, and tougher containment standards.
PEC will be submitting more detailed written comments to the Department, but tonight I want to underscore the critical importance of finalizing this rulemaking proposal.
This rulemaking is the result of enactment of Act 13 of 2012, the subsequent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in Robinson (December 2013) on sufficiency of that statute, a series of issue workgroups convened by the Oil & Gas Technical Advisory Board, a previous round of public hearings and comment, and the collective management and enforcement experience of the Department over the past several years.
At current pace, this rulemaking proposal will not be finalized until 2016. That’s four years from the date of the authorizing statute.
While there remain areas where we feel the rulemaking can be further improved – and again PEC will present those details to the Department as part of the additional public comment process – we must also recognize that the citizens and environment of Pennsylvania are best served by having regulations on the books and in operation across the state.
This holds true of advancing updates to conventional well regulations as well; particularly containment and financial assurance measures to ensure that we don’t further add to Pennsylvania’s already significant and expensive legacy of abandoned well remediation.
PEC has long embraced the concept of continuous improvement through our own advocacy and involvement in efforts like the Center for Sustainable Shale Development. This rulemaking proposal is a strong step in that direction.
While there are some who seek to derail this process altogether by trying to run out the procedural clock, they certainly don’t represent the view of a majority of Pennsylvanians or the demonstration by many in the industry that we can achieve success and high standards in both oversight and operation.
The people and environment of Pennsylvania deserve as much, and I probably don’t have to remind you it’s a fundamental right guaranteed by our state’s constitution.
Again, we commend the Department for strengthening this rulemaking proposal, and urge swift finalization after receipt and consideration of additional public comment.
Two more hearings on the regulations are scheduled for April 30 in Warren and May 4 in Williamsport.
DEP is accepting comments on the proposal final changes to the regulations until May 19.
For more information, visit DEP’s Oil and Gas Regulations webpage.

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