Friday, August 19, 2022

DEP: Conventional Oil & Gas Driller Compliance Review Will Go Back At Least 5 Years; Whether It Will Be Public Document Not Decided

On August 18, Kurt Klapkowski, Acting DEP Deputy Secretary for Oil and Gas Management, told DCED’s 
PA Grade Crude [Oil] Development Advisory Council the conventional oil and gas driller compliance review required by Gov. Wolf by September 1 will evaluate at least the last five years of compliance.

When asked whether DEP’s evaluation and accompanying recommendations would be in a public document, Klapkowski said, “... don’t know the answer to that question.  All I can say is what was published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, the instructions that we were given in terms of preparing a report for the conventional industry's record of compliance.”

The evaluation was required by Gov. Wolf in a formal statement published in the July 30 PA Bulletin and came in the wake of the Governor allowing House Bill 2644 to become law without his signature.  Read more here.

“What we're doing is we're going back and we're taking a look over the last five years and potentially need to go back farther. But I think the timeframe here we were given of September 1st is pretty aggressive,” Klapkowski explained.

“[We’re] taking a look at the types of violations that we've noticed in our inspections and trying to provide some context in terms of what we see when we go out, as well as the compliance reporting requirements,” explained Klapkowski.  “So there may be some breakdowns, if you will, about the types of violations that we see, the types of entities that seem to be involved. 

“In the example of the reporting requirements, we went back and looked over the last five years. On average, there were about 36,000 wells, conventional oil and gas wells listed exactly but not reporting in that particular year,” he said.

“[They] did not report production of hydrocarbons, waste [generated and how it was disposed] or minimum mechanical [oil and gas well] integrity that is required by the regulations,” said Klapkowski.  “That's about a 30 percent noncompliance rate. That's concerning for us, obviously.” 

Klapkowski said permit transfers and moving oil and gas wells to so-called inactive status “can be a step on the pathway to improper management” and abandoning wells.

“Do we need to think about how we review these requests or those permit transfers? There are obviously requirements in the law that talk about permit transfers and inactive status. There are regulations, at least for the inactive status side of things and we can build off of those statutory provisions. 

“That’s something we do need to revisit because it has been ineffective to ensure that improper abandonment is not occurring,” said Klapkowski.

“As for regulatory reform suggestions, we've obviously got two packages that are going through the process right now,” said Klapkowski.  “I think those cover a lot of ground, frankly, in terms of where we think the conventional regulations ought to be. 

“It does include things like areas of review. There are already some changes to the inactive status requirements, in the mechanical integrity inspection requirements for those[wells]  that are leaking, so we will certainly include those as part of the recommendation we wanted to go after.”

Conventional Drilling Compliance Evaluation

Gov. Wolf said in announcing the conventional oil and gas drilling compliance evaluation--

“The legislature's action to withdraw the Environmental Quality Board's authority to establish bonding amounts for the conventional industry provides an appropriate occasion to revisit whether the Commonwealth is doing enough to ensure that this industry is being a good environmental steward by preventing the abandonment of wells and meeting its obligations as a prudent trustee of Pennsylvania's public natural resources for current and future generations.

“Evidence on this count is discouraging. 

“Over the past five years, DEP has identified more than 17,000 violations at conventional oil and gas wells, and DEP has issued over 3,300 Notices of Violations to the conventional industry specifically due to attempts to abandon wells since July 1, 2017. 

“In addition, over the past five years, operators of conventional oil and gas wells have failed to report production for an average of around 36,000 conventional oil and gas wells per year.”

Gov. Wolf said as a result of these concerns, DEP is reviewing existing processes and procedures and will be providing the following evaluations and recommendations to him by September 1:

-- Evaluation of the conventional industry's recent record of compliance with reporting requirements and performance requirements under existing law.

-- Evaluation of using existing authority, including increased exercise of civil penalty authority and forfeiting conventional oil and gas well bonds and requiring submission of replacement bonds, as methods to deter and motivate conventional operators to address abandoned wells and violations of the applicable law.

-- Recommendations for increased scrutiny of conventional oil and gas operators' requests for regulatory inactive status approval and permit transfers, because these steps are often precursors to improper abandonment of wells.

-- Evaluation of using existing criminal provisions related to conventional oil and gas operations as a means of deterring and motivating conventional operators to address abandoned wells and violations of the applicable law.

-- Recommendations for regulatory reform to comprehensively regulate conventional drilling according to modern best practices and industry standards.”

Click Here for a copy of Gov. Wolf’s statement.

(Photos: Top Row: Photos of abandoned wells leaking oil and natural gas; Air sampler filter paper turned gray from catching dust from drilling operation; Typical modern conventional drill rig (PIOGA).  2nd Row: 2 views of dumping untreated conventional drilling wastewater on dirt roads; far right aerial view of conventional well drilling pads and roads carved out of the Allegheny National Forest.  Bottom Row: Dust from drill cuttings being blown out of a well while drilling; oil leaking out of a conventional well; conventional drill rig carved out of the middle of a forest (PIOGA).)

Related Articles - Conventional Compliance:

-- Gov. Wolf Announces Evaluation Of How DEP Regulates Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling & The Industry’s Compliance With Environmental Safeguards [7.29.22]

-- Conventional Oil & Natural Gas Drilling: An Industrial Machine Moving Across The PA Countryside Leaving Behind Big Liabilities & Spreading Pollution Everywhere It Goes  [8.3.22]

-- 16 Oil & Gas Facility Spill, Soil, Water Contamination Cleanups Under Act 2 Land Recycling Program During July  [PaEN]

-- New Abandoned Wells: DEP Records Show Abandoning Oil & Gas Wells Without Plugging Them Is Pervasive In Conventional Drilling Industry; Who Is Protecting Taxpayers?  [2.23.22]

-- DEP Issues 20% More NOVs To Oil & Gas Well Drillers For Abandoning Wells Without Plugging Them In 2nd Quarter [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Dispose Of Drill Cuttings By ‘Dusting’ - Blowing Them On The Ground, And In The Air Around Drill Sites  [5.2.22]

-- On-Site Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Waste Disposal Plans Making Hundreds Of Drilling Sites Waste Dumps  [6.6.22]

-- Millions Of Gallons Of Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Spread Illegally On Dirt Roads, Companies Fail To Comply With DEP Waste Regulations  [12.13.21]

-- Penn State Study: Potential Pollution Caused By Road Dumping Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Makes It Unsuitable For A Dust Suppressant, Washes Right Off The Road Into The Ditch  [7.26.22]

-- DEP Advises 18 Municipalities Where Road Dumping Of Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater Is Occurring The Practice Is Illegal And Considered Waste Disposal  [5.31.22]

-- Allegheny National Forest: Commercial Alternatives For Dust Suppression Makes The Practice Of Road Dumping Conventional Drilling Wastewater ‘Unnecessary’ On Roads  [5.9.22]

-- Attorney General’s Office Reported To Be Investigating Conventional Oil & Gas Operators For Illegally Road Dumping Drilling Wastewater  [4.22.22]

-- DCNR Bans Use Of Oil & Gas Wastewater On Its Over 6,500 Miles Of Dirt, Gravel Roads  [1.25.22]

Related Articles This Week:

-- Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Want To Rewrite Penn State Study Showing Their Drilling Wastewater Dumped On Roads Is Bad For Human Health, Environment  [PaEN]

-- Yale School Of Public Health Study Found PA Children 2 To 3 Times More Likely To Be Diagnosed With Leukemia If They Live Near Unconventional Shale Gas Facilities  [PaEN]

-- Grant Township Charter Banning Drilling Wastewater Injection Wells Struck Down By State Court; Decision Appealed To PA Supreme Court  [PaEN]

-- PA PUC: Cost Of Natural Gas Provided By Major Utilities In PA Increased As Much As 154% Over Last Year  [PaEN]

-- Independent Fiscal Office Reports Decline In PA Natural Gas Production For 2nd Quarter In A Row For First Time; But An Increase In New Wells Drilled  [PaEN]

-- New Poll: Strong Majority Of PA Voters Support Climate Action To Cut Carbon and Methane Pollution  [PaEN]

[Posted: August 19, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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