Thursday, March 24, 2016

Reports: Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers File Lawsuit To Block Final DEP Drilling Regs

Just one day after Gov. Wolf said he would veto House Bill 1327 (Peifer-R-Pike) that includes a provision that would have killed a comprehensive update of DEP drilling regulations covering conventional oil and gas wells, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Tribune Review reported Thursday conventional well drillers have filed a lawsuit to block the regulations from becoming final.
The PA Independent Petroleum Producers Association filed the lawsuit in Commonwealth Court alleging DEP violated a provision in the 2014 Fiscal Code bill that required DEP to publish separate rules for conventional and unconventional drilling.
The trade group was quoted by the Post-Gazette as saying, “the commingling of the rules made it nearly impossible to stop them because public and political support for regulating the shale gas industry is strong.”
The lawsuit asks the court to void the rules adopted as final by the Environmental Quality Board in February and to direct the rulemaking board to begin the regulatory process anew if it wants to create new regulations for conventional wells.
The trade group also asked for an expedited review of its petition or for the court to stay the meeting of the Independent Regulatory Review Commission on April 21 where Chapter 78 and 78a will be on the agenda for action.
In fact DEP did separate the regulations-- Chapter 78 deals with conventional drilling and Chapter 78a covers unconventional (Marcellus Shale) drilling.
The conventional drilling operators have consistently opposed modern updates to DEP’s drilling regulations because they believe their industry is environmentally benign.  In fact, they even said their industry was benign in legislation introduced at their request 2 years ago.
The facts are--
1. Conventional Wells Cause Water Loss, Contamination Just Like Unconventional Wells: Conventional wells are just as likely to cause water well loss and contamination as unconventional wells, even more so because there are more conventional wells than unconventional wells.
2. Conventional Wells Have More Violations: DEP inspections found conventional drillers had a higher rate of violations of the existing regulations than unconventional drillers.  In fact, conventional wells had 3 times the violations of unconventional wells in 2014, according to DEP.
3. Both Use Fracking: Both conventional and unconventional wells use fracking to increase production and conventional well drillers are also exploring the use of horizontal drilling to increase yields.
4. Conventional Wells Are Drilled Through Same Sensitive Aquifers: Conventional wells can be drilled to a depth of 1,500 to 21,000 feet and unconventional wells can be drilled to a depth of 5,000 to 9,000 and then laterally another 10,000 feet or more, both passing through sensitive groundwater aquifers.
5. Conventional Wells Create A Bigger Footprint: To develop the same amount of natural gas, conventional well drillers must drill 16 or more wells, while unconventional drillers use as few as 8 in 75 percent less land area.
6. Smaller Companies, Fewer Resources: Conventional oil and gas well drillers tend to be smaller companies with fewer resources to deal with environmental and water replacement problems when they do develop and that means taxpayers may have to foot the bill much more often.
For more information on Chapter 78 and 78a drilling regulations, visit DEP’s Oil and Gas Rulemaking webpage.
Analysis: Myth-- Conventional Oil And Gas Drilling Is Benign
DEP: Fiscal Code Provision On Conventional Wells Delays Drilling Regs 2-3 Months

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