Saturday, November 26, 2022

DEP Oil & Gas Advisory Board To Hear Updates On Chapter 78 Regulation Changes; Federal Abandoned Well Plugging Program Dec. 1

The agenda for the December 1 DEP
Oil & Gas Technical Advisory Board meeting includes updates on Chapter 78 regulation changes, the new federal abandoned well plugging program and more.

Chapter 78 Updates

For more than two years, DEP has been in the process of updating conventional oil and gas environmental protection and waste disposal and handling standards, after the last comprehensive update was killed by the General Assembly in 2016.  Read more here.

The first of two regulatory packages dealing with permitting and environmental protection standards were expected to come before the Environmental Quality Board for action this year, but didn’t.

The second draft of the second package-- dealing primarily with waste disposal, handling and similar  requirements-- also was not completed.

The last draft of the waste handling regulation update was posted by DEP in September, 2021.

However, that draft did not address many key issues, like continuing to allow the road dumping of conventional oil and gas wastewater on dirt and gravel roads.

A comprehensive study released by Penn State in May found runoff from spreading conventional oil and gas wastewater on unpaved roads contains concentrations of barium, strontium, lithium, iron, manganese that exceed human-health based criteria and levels of radioactive radium that exceed industrial discharge standards.  Read more here.

Unconventional shale gas operators are already banned from dumping their wastewater on roads.

It also did not address the issue of conventional oil and gas operators creating thousands of dumpsites across the state through practices allowing on-site disposal of drill cuttings and drilling wastewater.  Read more here.

A meeting of DCED’s PA Grade Crude [Oil] Development Advisory Council is scheduled for December 15, originally to review a draft of the second regulatory package. 

DEP issued an advisory last week saying, “Due to the upcoming change in [Governor’s] administration, DEP executive staff have asked that all advisory committee meetings slated for January and February be rescheduled to March.”

The change in Governors will mean these regularly packages will not be finalized for public comment until sometime in 2023.

Federal Well Plugging

DEP told the Citizens Advisory Council on September 19 it expects to plug 249 conventional oil and gas wells with the first grant it received under the federal Conventional Abandoned Well Plugging Program.  Read more here.

The first requests for bids to plug 79 conventional wells were released on September 30.  Read more here.

New Well Abandonments Accelerating

Meanwhile the pace of new conventional oil and gas well abandonments have been accelerating in 2022.

Through the end of September, DEP issued a total of 322 notices of violation to  conventional operators for abandoning wells without plugging them and 32 NOVs to unconventional shale gas operators for a total of 354 wells.  Read more here.

On November 3, the General Assembly passed and Gov. Wolf signed another bill that failed to address the woefully inadequate conventional oil and gas well bonding program that could help prevent new well abandonments.  Read more here.

Conventional Compliance Report

On July 30, Gov. Wolf directed the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct an evaluation of how it regulates conventional oil and gas wells to prevent new abandoned wells, tighten review of permit transfers, review compliance with environmental safeguards and make recommendations for changes and actions, including criminal sanctions. Read more here.

The evaluation was outlined 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.

As of November 26, that report has not been released.

Permit Fee Revenue Running Behind

As of November 11 this year, DEP received 636 new conventional shale gas drilling applications.

The last fee increase that took effect on August 1, 2020 was based on DEP receiving 2,000 permits a year to meet the Oil and Gas Program’s needs for staff and expenses, but due to the COVID pandemic and the energy market downturn barely half that number are being received.  Read more here.

Natural Gas Storage Area Inspections

In January 2019, Scott Perry, then DEP Deputy Secretary for Oil and Gas Management, told DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council there was a need to increase the frequency of inspections for underground natural gas storage fields.  Read more here.

Because of the lack of funding for staff then [which continues now], Perry told the CAC DEP was not meeting its goal to inspect all underground gas storage fields at least twice a year.  Read more here.

He expressed concern about an incident in Greene County where a coal mine was seeking a permit to mine on top of a natural gas storage area and in the permit review process found 50 unplugged, abandoned gas wells.  Read more here.

He also said DEP wanted to step up its attention to gas storage fields after a massive gas leak from a California storage area in 2015 and 2016 released over 100,000 tons of methane and caused thousands of nearby residents to be evacuated.  Read more here.

From November 6 to November 20 of this year, the Rager Mountain Gas Storage Area in Cambria County leaked an estimated 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas until efforts by the facility operator to stop the leak succeeded.  Read more here.

Click Here to see the full agenda.

The meeting will be held in Room 105 Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg starting at 10:00 a.m.  Click Here to attend the meeting online via Microsoft Teams- Meeting ID: 297 222 414 095  Passcode: KCohoX.  Join by telephone: +1 267-332-8737, Phone Conference ID: 961 849 517#

For available handouts and more information, visit DEP’s Oil & Gas Technical Advisory Board webpage. Questions should be directed to Todd Wallace or 717-783-6395.

Oil & Gas Compliance Dashboard:

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Nov. 19 To 25  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment  [PaEN]


-- AP: Court Plea Hearing Scheduled Tuesday On Criminal Charges Against Coterra Energy [Fmr Cabot Oil & Gas] For Contaminating Water Supplies In Dimock, Susquehanna County

-- AP: PA American Water To Provide Clean Drinking Water To Residents Of Dimock, Susquehanna County Who Have Gone Without For 14 Years Due To Contamination From Shale Gas Drilling

-- Post-Gazette Editorial: Catastrophic Natural Gas Storage Well Leak In Cambria County Shows Need For New Regulations; Incoming Shapiro Administration Should Expand DEP Oil & Gas Methane Leak Rule

Related Articles This Week:

-- EQB To Meet Nov. 30 To Consider Emergency Regulation Setting VOC/Methane Limits For Conventional Oil & Gas Facilities  [PaEN]

-- Delaware River Basin Commission Meets Dec. 7 On Shale Gas Fracking Wastewater Regulations  [PaEN]

-- FracTracker Alliance Announces 7 Winners Of 2022 Community Sentinel Award For Environmental Stewardship; Including PA’s Laurie Barr  [PaEN]

-- FracTracker Alliance Releases 4th Watershed Oil & Gas Drilling Impact Analysis In Susquehanna River Basin - Towanda & Schrader Creek Watersheds  [PaEN] 

-- FracTracker Alliance: Lycoming Creek Watershed Oil & Gas Drilling Impact Analysis In Lycoming County  [PaEN]

-- UPDATED: After 14 Days, Efforts To Stop A Natural Gas Leak At A Cambria County Underground Gas Storage Area Have Apparently Been Successful  [PaEN] 

-- EDF Blog: What A Catastrophic Natural Gas Leak In Pennsylvania Means For Our Climate And Health - By Adam Peltz and Jon Goldstein, Environmental Defense Fund  [PaEN]

-- NRDC Blog: How Clean Is Pennsylvania’s New Hydrogen Subsidy?  It’s Up To The Feds -  By Mark Szybist, Natural Resources Defense Council  [PaEN]

-- Beaver County Residents And Allies Launch New Shell Ethane Plant Accountability Campaign  [PaEN]

-- Guest Essay: PA Politicians Capitalizing On Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine To Benefit Natural Gas Industry - By Lauren M. Williams, Esq., Greenworks Law & Consulting LLC  [PaEN]

[Posted: November 26, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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