Thursday, October 29, 2015

Conventional Drilling Advisory Committee Votes To Block Drilling Regs Going To EQB

The voting members of DEP’s Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee Thursday adopted a resolution urging DEP to restart the rulemaking process for the Chapter 78 (conventional) and 78a (unconventional) drilling regulations that have been under development since the Act 13 drilling law was adopted in 2012.
The voting members said if the process is not restarted, DEP should not forward the regulations to the Environmental Quality Board for final action and Committee should be given an additional nine months of review.  
[Note: The additional review time would also require a restart of the Chapter 78 development process because it puts them beyond the two-year deadline in the Regulatory Review Act to adopt rulemakings.]
The voting members said to review the regulations effectively during the additional review time they would need to be provided much more information about the proposed changes, among the information they said the needed was--
-- A statement of the need for the regulations and the changes being proposed as required by the Regulatory Review Act;
-- Provide the acceptable data (required by Act 60) on which the proposed changes and new requirements in the regulations were made;
-- An analysis of the impact the regulation on small business and a discussion of alternative methods of achieving the goals for small business as required by the Regulatory Review Act; and
-- Copies of all forms needed to implement the new regulations.
The Committee brought up similar points in a letter to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission in July.  The Commission itself, in 19 pages of comments they sent to DEP  in April of last year, raised some of the same issues.
As part of the resolution, the voting members itemized the information they thought they needed to effectively review the regulation, but were not given by DEP.  The list was the same as the list above.
The action taken by the Committee was after a five and a half hour review of the changes DEP made to the regulation in response to industry, public and other comments.
There was no comment from DEP staff at the Committee meeting on the motion.
The Committee’s role is to advise DEP on rulemakings, and is not required to approve a regulatory proposal before it goes to the EQB.  The Committee was created in March by DEP specifically to advise DEP on regulations covering the conventional oil and gas industry.
On Tuesday, DEP’s Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board adopted a motion to forward its comments on the regulations to the Environmental Quality Board for consideration, but it did not recommend restarting the process or not sending the rule to the EQB. reported late today the Chapter 78 regulations will go to the Environmental Quality Board for action at its November 17 meeting. During the Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee meeting, DEP staff said they may go to the EQB in January or February.

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