Friday, March 23, 2018

DATE CHANGED: Senate Committee Meets March 27 To Consider Bill Adopting The 1984 Oil & Gas Act To Regulate Conventional Drilling

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee is scheduled to meet March 27 to consider Senate Bill 1088 (Hutchinson-R-Venango) re-enacting the 1984 Oil and Gas Act to regulate conventional oil and gas drilling.
Also on the agenda is House Bill 544 (Moul-R-Adams) further providing for liability protection for landowners opening their land for public recreation (House Fiscal Note and summary)
Senate Bill 1088 was introduced on March 20 and has had no hearings.  An identical bill has been introduced in the House-- House Bill 2154 (Causer-R-Forest).
The new Conventional Oil and Gas Act is based on the Oil and Gas Act adopted in 1984.  There are, however, some key differences even from that basic law and current law--
-- Eliminates Protections For Public Resources: Section 305 of the draft omits this language from Section 205 of the 1984 law--
The department shall, on a making a determination on a well permit, consider the impact of the proposed well on public resources to include, but not be limited to, the following:
(1)  Publicly owned parks, forests, game lands and wildlife areas.
(2)  National or State scenic rivers.
(3)  National natural landmarks.
(4)  Habitats of rare and endangered flora and fauna and other critical communities.
(5)  Historical and archaeological sites listed on the federal or State list of historic places.
The conventional oil and gas industry lost a challenge to DEP’s ability to consider impacts on public resources last June before the PA Supreme Court.  This is no doubt an attempt to correct that. Click Here for more.
-- Preempts Local Ordinances: Although Section 902 on preemption of all local ordinances was included in the 1984 Oil and Gas Act and is repeated here, the provisions related to preempting the application of local ordinances regulating land development from applying to conventional oil and gas operations clearly run afoul of the PA Supreme Court’s Robinson Township decision in 2013 based on the Environmental Rights Amendment to the state constitution.
-- Drastically Increases The Threshold For Spill Reporting: New Section 1103 eliminates the requirement to report any spills less than 5 barrels of oil (200 gallons) or 15 barrels of brine (600 gallons) unless the well operator determines there is an immediate threat to public safety, health or the environment. The DEP threshold for reporting now is 5 gallons of a regulated substance, like oil and more than 5 gallons of brine within 24-hour period.
-- Takes Away Authority For DEP To Issue Injection Well Permits: New Section 904 takes away DEP’s present authority to issue its own permit for drilling waste injection wells unless it has primacy under the U.S. EPA Underground Injection Well Program.  DEP has approved permits for 3 injections wells for drilling wastewater in Clearfield,  Elk and Indiana counties.
-- Sets New Standard For Crude Oil Spill Site Cleanup: New Section 1103 sets a new standard for crude oil spill site cleanup from active wells in law for total petroleum hydrocarbons of 10,000 mg/kg (ppm) and substitutes something called "established field practices" for cleaning up a spill rather than the methods used in the PA Land Recycling Program. The number comes from EPA’s standard for cleaning up abandoned oil and gas wells where no responsible party is found.  The PA Land Recycling Program does not have a total petroleum hydrocarbon standard because it is too imprecise. Instead, standards are set for benzene, toluene , ethylbenzene and xylene.
-- Allows For Warnings For Violations: New Section 711 establishes a new enforcement practice of issuing warnings for violations that pose no material harm to public health or the environment, rather than just having DEP issue notices of violations to “alleviate the unwarranted use of notices of violation for minor violations.”  The warnings will be issued were compliance can be accomplished within 48 hours and cannot be used as a basis for a civil penalty when compliance is achieved.
Click Here for a more complete summary of the changes the bill would make and the reasons the sponsors gave for introducing it.
Sen. Hutchinson was responsible for killing DEP’s update to the conventional drilling regulations in 2016.  The 2016 law created a Pennsylvania Grade Crude Development Advisory Council was supposed to advise DEP on starting a new set of updates to conventional drilling regulations, but so far has done little on that issue.
The meeting will be called off the Floor of the Senate at some point Monday and held in the Rules Room.  Because this meeting is in the Rules Room, it will not be available online.
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-787-3280 or sending email to:   Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7105 or sending email to:
Related Stories:

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner