DEP – Notice of new rulemaking for gas well construction

The following is an extract of a DEP release from January. You may already have seen this, but might not have considered officially commenting to DEP on their rulemaking. I urge you and any organization you represent to do so. Gas industry representatives may attempt to weaken or delete some – or all – of these regulations. Public input will help to support DEP’s efforts to put these regulations in place.


In order to protect Pennsylvania’s residents and environment from the impact of increased natural gas exploration across the state, Governor Edward G. Rendell announced today that the commonwealth is strengthening its enforcement capabilities…. … DEP’s work to amend Pennsylvania’s oil and gas regulations will strengthen well construction standards and define a drilling company’s responsibility for responding to gas migration issues, such as when gas escapes a well or rock formation and seeps into homes or water wells. Specifically, he said the new regulations will:

• Require the casings of Marcellus Shale and other high-pressure wells to be tested and constructed with specific, oilfield-grade cement;
• Clarify the drilling industry’s responsibility to restore or replace water supplies affected by drilling;
• Establish procedures for operators to identify and correct gas migration problems without waiting for direction from DEP;
• Require drilling operators to notify DEP and local emergency responders immediately of gas migration problems;
• Require well operators to inspect every existing well quarterly to ensure each well is structurally sound, and report the results of those inspections to DEP annually; and
• Require well operators to notify DEP immediately if problems such as over-pressurized wells and defective casings are found during inspections.

“These new draft regulations, which were developed through open meetings with experts in the industry, are designed to give Pennsylvanians peace of mind by bringing our state’s requirements up to par with other major gas producing states or, as in the case of the well casing requirements, to a level that is even more rigorous,” said Governor Rendell.

The new regulations will be offered for public comment on Jan. 29 before going through DEP’s formal rulemaking process.

In commenting to DEP about these new regulations, consider whether it is appropriate for  the industry to police itself when there have been so many documented instances of failure to do so in Pennsylvania and other gas-producing states.
Specifically, the regulations noted above that say the following are situations where a regulatory agency may be a more appropriate entity to oversee this aspect of drilling in order to protect the public and the environment.
– “Require well operators to inspect every existing well quarterly to ensure each well is structurally sound, and report the results of those inspections to DEP annually.”
– “Require well operators to notify DEP immediately if problems such as over-pressurized wells and defective casings are found during inspections.”
Consider the following with regard to the regulation that says: “Clarify the drilling industry’s responsibility to restore or replace water supplies affected by drilling.”
If a home’s water supply is damaged in quality and/or quantity by gas drilling – whether the supply comes from a private or public source – it should be replaced in toto. It’s unacceptable to replace only drinking water but not water that is needed for other household purposes, such as washing, or for irrigation. A property’s value can be significantly diminished by lack or water or water that is polluted. It appears that the regulation on this matter would insure appropriate replacement. Public input would underscore the importance of this regulation.
Consider whether the mechanism to determine whether a water supply has been adversely affected by drilling is fair to the property owner.
In order to comment on these regulations, here’s what DEP says.
Interested persons are invited to submit comments, suggestions or
objections regarding the proposed amendments to the Bureau of Oil and Gas, P. O. Box
8765, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8765 (express mail: Rachel Carson State Office Building,
5th Floor, 400 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101-2301).
Comments submitted by facsimile will not be accepted.
Comments, suggestions or objections must be received by the Department by March 2, 2010.
Electronic Comments: Comments may be submitted electronically to the Department at
ra-epoilandgas@state.pa.us and must also be received by the Department by March 2,
2010.
A subject heading of the proposal and a return name and address must be included
in each transmission. If the sender does not receive an acknowledgement of electronic
comments within 2 working days, the comments should be retransmitted to ensure
receipt.
To read the original announcement, click here:

http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/newsroom/14287?id=3115&typeid=1

To read the details of the rulemaking, deadline for public comments and where to send them, click here:

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