Saturday, June 22, 2019

Sen. Scarnati Introduces Bill To Regulate Conventional Oil & Gas Wells Different From House Version

On June 21, Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) introduced Senate Bill 790 to regulate conventional oil and gas wells using different environmental standards from regulation of unconventional (shale) gas wells.
Senate Bill 790, however, contains different provisions than House Bill 1635 introduced last week to regulated conventional drilling by Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron).
Among the differences with House Bill 1635 are--
-- Area Of Review: Area of review concept to avoid inadvertent interference with nearby abandoned, orphaned or other wells (page 22)
-- Conventional Wells Do Use Fracking: Acknowledges for the first time in law that conventional oil and gas wells do undergo hydraulic fracking and requires notice to DEP if fracking interferes with a well, active coal mine or has an adverse environmental public health or safety impact (page 23)
-- Protecting Public Resources: Adds back in provisions protecting certain public resources (page 28)
-- Well Control Emergencies: Includes specific provisions relating to well control emergency response (page 38)
-- Well Plugging Grants: Expands the grants available under the Commonwealth Financing Authority well plugging program (page 43)
-- Beneficial Use Of Produced Water: Authorizes the use of produced water as a dust suppressant and road stabilizer on unpaved roads with a plan approved by DEP.  Does not authorize use of produced water for prewetting, anti-icing or de-icing of roads. Authorizes DEP to develop temporary regulations to establish the program. (page 71)
-- Requires General Fund Appropriation: Includes a $5 million appropriation to DEP to regulate conventional wells [to reduce any permit fees] and directs the governor to submit future budgets with an appropriation of not less than $5 million for conventional well regulation (page 74)
Like the House bill, Senate Bill 790 contains these provisions--
-- Injection Wells: DEP could no longer issue permits for drilling waste injection wells without having official primacy for the program from EPA (page 69)
-- Preempts Local Ordinances: Prohibiting local ordinances regulating conventional drilling, except under the Municipalities Planning Code and the Flood Plain Management Act (page 71)
-- Increases The Threshold For Spill Reporting: 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.
-- Sunset Of Policies: Requires the sunset of existing policies after 3 years and a review of regulations and policies by PA Grade Crude [Oil] Development Council (page 75)
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