Friday, August 28, 2015

Conventional Drilling Advocates Again Talk Lawsuit Over DEP Drilling Regulations

Voting members of DEP’s Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee Thursday continued to raise objections to the final draft of Chapter 78 drilling regulations presented to the Committee for their review and said litigation would be pursued by conventional drillers challenging the legality of the rulemaking.
The members stuck by comments they made in a July 7 letter repeating industry claims DEP did not comply with rulemaking standards in providing an extra comment period and hearings on the draft final regulations known as an advanced notice of final rulemaking.
The conventional drillers also said DEP did not comply with a 2014 state law-- Act 126-- requiring the agency to separate out regulations related to the conventional and unconventional oil and gas drilling industry.
“For all of these reasons, the voting members of COGAC will not be able to support the Department’s submission of the regulatory package to the [Environmental Quality Board] for adoption as a final rule, regardless of revisions that DEP may or may not make before that submission (emphasis added),” the letter said.
At the meeting Thursday, the voting members of the Committee did say they would continue working on the latest draft of the regulations because DEP intends to enact them in some form.
DEP has documented through hundreds of photographs and in its most recent Oil and Gas Annual Report how conventional oil and gas drillers have at least 3 times the violations of unconventional (Marcellus Shale) drillers over the years.
The fact is DEP did separate its drilling regulations into those affecting conventional drillers-- Chapter 78-- and those covering unconventional drillers-- Chapter 78A-- as required by the requirements of Act 126, plus held three public hearings.
It is ironic that conventional drillers are so concerned about the regulatory process, when this provision requiring the separation of the regulations was slipped into the Fiscal Code bill in 2014 without public review or notice based on legislation that neither the House nor the Senate ever voted on.
The conventional drilling industry has maintained since the original Oil and Gas Act was passed in 1984 that its actions have a “benign” impact on the environment.  In fact in legislation sponsored last year-- Senate Bill 1378 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson) and House Bill 2350 (Causer-R-Cameron)-- they said exactly that.
It was interesting to see an article in the Tribune Review on August 23 attempting to romanticize the lives of conventional oil well operators who proudly say they pump oil the same way it was done in the 19th century and that state law and DEP regulations in effect since 1984 requiring, among other things, safely plugging wells operators abandoned, would be too much for them to bear.
This is the same romantic notion that has left Pennsylvania’s landscape littered with more than 325,000 abandoned oil and gas wells, easy pathways to polluting groundwater, since the first wells were drilled in the Commonwealth in 1859.
1. Conventional wells cause water loss and contamination just like unconventional wells;
2. Conventional wells have more violations than unconventional wells;
3. Both kinds of wells use fracking;
4. Conventional wells are drilled through the same sensitive aquifers;
5. Conventional wells create a bigger footprint on the land; and
6. Smaller companies with fewer resources to deal with problems drill conventional wells.
The next scheduled meeting of the Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee is set for October 29 starting at 10:00 in Room 105 of the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg.
For more information, visit DEP’s Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee webpage.
Low Prices, Tough Regs Threaten Independent Oil Producers
Related Story:
Webcast Live: Marcellus Advisory Committee Meets Sept. 2 On Drilling Regs

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