DEP has proposed tougher standards for Oil & Gas drilling.

The Public Comment Meetings are finished and there are only about ten days to get in your comments by e-mail.

These regulations call for more stringent standards for O&G drilling operations.

These regulations are vital.  They upgrade requirements for testing, well casing, welding, cementing and other steps to prevent blowouts, migration of gas and release of fluids which could contaminate our waterways and aquifers.

The public comment period will end on 8/09/10.

If you missed the hearings, please submit your official written testimony via   RegComments@state.pa.us

or via USPS at

Environmental Quality Board

P.O. Box 8477 Harrisburg PA  17105-8477

·        Be sure to use subject heading “CH 78 Regulations”

and  include your full name and address.

Talking points – Choose the topics most important to you:

  • Safety – Marcellus depths and pressures are so far beyond what was “normal” in the 1980’s, we must upgrade the Oil & Gas regulations to ensure safety.
  • Prevent stray gas migration [ contaminating local waterwells]

·        Cementing – Use Texas standards

DEP’s definition for cement sets a 24-hour compressive strength standard of at least 500 psi; however, other states, such as Texas, have found that standard insufficient to prevent vertical migration of fluids or gas behind pipe. Texas requires an additional 72-hour compressive strength standard of at least 1,200 psi across critical zones of cement.

·        Cementing – Upgrade the details

Ensure better cementing by documenting the chemical composition of the mixture. Expand the “cement ticket” definition to include:

(a) a requirement for the operator to test the mixing water pH and temperature and note it on the cement ticket (this is standard industry practice and aids in determining cement quality);

(b) a record of the Waiting on Cement [WOC] time, which is the time required to achieve the calculated compressive strength standard before the casing is disturbed in any way.  Allow no shortcuts.

  • Protection of Water Supplies –

DEP must clarify  §78.51 to explain what constitutes an adequately restored or replacement water supply for homeowners.  There should be a set timeframe for acting upon a complaint filed by a landowner.

Revise §78.51(c) to read: Within 24 hours of the receipt of the investigation request, the Department will send a technical team to the field site to examine the situation and determine whether immediate action is needed to shut down operations.

·        Blowout Preventer –

Blowouts are very serious work safety, and environmental situations. Blowouts may result in human injury, fire, explosion, oil spills and gas venting.  Suggestion:  Require all wells to be drilled with a Blow-Out Preventer once the surface casing is installed and cemented.  No exceptions.

§78.72 (c)  requires BOP controls to be accessible during an emergency; this is logical.  However, the regulation should also require that the operator to place the BOP controls on the rig itself.  BOP controls need to be accessible both on the rig and at a location a safe distance away from the drilling rig.   Recent accidents show the need for this.

“Safe” = absence of risk.  While it is not possible to eliminate all the risks inherent in drilling, we have to ensure that the standards are as bullet-proof as we can make them.  There should be no “weasel clauses” that allow misinterpretation, no omissions, no compromises because of industry arm-twisting or whining that DEP is “unfriendly”.

Your statements are needed so the IRRC can see strong public support for the new DEP CH 78 regulations.

.   .     Remember, it is the Department of Environmental Protection.

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DEP’s proposed regulations are at:

http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol40/40-28/1248.html

If you have questions regarding details from any of our mailings, please contact Coalition-Secretary@comcast.net immediately.

DEP finally waking up

PA Must Take Action to Protect Water Resources from Drilling Wastewater, Other Sources of TDS Pollution

Proposed Rules will Help Keep Drinking Water, Streams and Rivers Clean

HARRISBURG — High levels of total dissolved solids pollution from natural gas drilling and other sources pose a real threat to Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers, including aquatic life, warned Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger today. “The treating and disposing of gas drilling brine and fracturing wastewater is a significant challenge for the natural gas industry because of its exceptionally high TDS concentrations,” said Hanger. “Marcellus drilling is growing rapidly and our rules must be strengthened now to prevent our waterways from being seriously harmed in the future.” Hanger pointed to recent examples where TDS impaired streams and affected major sources of drinking water….

To read the full DEP release, click here:
http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/newsroom/14287?id=10349&typeid=1

Drinking Water Source Protection Workshop

DEP to Hold Drinking Water Source Protection Workshop

WILKES-BARRE — The Department of Environmental Protection today invited water suppliers and local officials to learn how they can work together to better protect drinking water sources at a free workshop to be held next month in Bethlehem, Northampton County.

The workshop will be held from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 9, at the main campus of Northampton Community College. It will explore how communities can assess and protect the areas surrounding water sources, facilitate better local decision making on land use and open space preservation, and involve the public in contamination prevention efforts. Information on DEP’s source water protection technical assistance program also will be presented.

Those interested in attending must pre-register for the workshop by visiting www.drinkingwaterwise.org or by contacting Julie Kollar of the League of Women Voters’ Water Resources Education Network at 267-468-0555 or e-mail juliekwren@verizon.net.


To read the full DEP press release, click here:

http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/newsroom/14287?id=9159&typeid=1

DEP Issues Industrial Wastewater Discharge Permit to Williamsport’s TerrAqua Resource Management

First New Permit for Treating Drilling Wastewater to Be Issued in West Branch Susquehanna River Watershed.

WILLIAMSPORT — The Department of Environmental Protection today issued a system industrial wastewater discharge permit to TerrAqua Resource Management LLC of Williamsport that allows the company to treat and discharge 400,000 gallons per day of gas well drilling wastewater.

“This is the first new permit issued in the West Branch Susquehanna River watershed for treating gas well drilling wastewater,” said DEP Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell. “The monitoring requirements and stringent limits on total dissolved solids, chlorides and sulfates in this permit will protect the water quality of the West Branch Susquehanna River.”

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination permit requires TerrAqua to meet the proposed new regulatory standards of 500 parts per million for total dissolved solids and 250 parts per million for chlorides and sulfates. These standards will be required statewide effective Jan. 1, 2011.

TerrAqua has indicated that it will pursue a thermal treatment process capable of reducing total dissolved solid levels to less than 500 parts per million at all times.

The discharge permit also requires TerrAqua to monitor for radioactivity, a large number of metals, including barium, strontium, iron, manganese and aluminum, as well as organics such as toluene, benzene, phenols, ethylene glycol and surfactants.

The company’s application for the permit, which was submitted in August 2008, went through an extensive public participation process. More than 150 people attended a DEP public meeting held in July 2009 to discuss the permit and ask questions.

“The department received nearly 200 public comments regarding this permit application and have responded to and addressed all relevant questions and concerns raised in those comments,” Yowell said.

(NOTE: MANY RDA MEMBERS WERE AMONG THOSE WHO RAISED CONCERNS, URGING DEP TO DENY THIS PERMIT IN ITS ORIGINAL FORM. WE ARE GLAD THAT TERRAQUA HAS AGREED TO ADHERE TO THE  1-1-11 TDS PROPOSED REGULATIONS.

WE WILL FOLLOW THIS APPLICATION INTO ITS NEXT PHASE WHERE THE ACTUAL TECHNOLOGY WILL BE DEFINED.

ALSO OF CONCERN ARE AIR QUALITY ISSUES. WE WILL GET A BETTER IDEA ABOUT THESE AS THE APPLICATION PROGRESSES. )

TerrAqua now must submit a water quality management permit application to DEP for the treatment plant’s design and technology. This permit is required to construct and operate the plant.

The company has also applied for a general permit from DEP’s waste management program to process, recycle and reuse this wastewater for subsequent fracking operations.

The DEP Northcentral Regional Office has nine additional permit applications under review for proposed gas well drilling wastewater treatment plants in Bradford, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Lycoming, and Tioga counties. Proposed discharge points include the Susquehanna, Chemung, and Tioga rivers as well as several streams.

For more information, call 570-327-3659 or visit www.depweb.state.pa.us.

Marcellus Shale Coalition Releases the Facts on Flowback Water Treatment

CANONSBURG, Pa., Feb. 4 /PRNewswire/ — The Marcellus Shale Coalition today issued the following statement to provide the facts regarding water use and flowback water management in the development of natural gas from the Marcellus formation: “Pennsylvanians deserve to get the facts about water management for Marcellus Shale development.  We need to put an end to the suppositions that could threaten our state’s ability to create jobs and investment here at home. “Regulations governing the use and management of water needed to drill a Marcellus Shale well in Pennsylvania are among the most stringent in the nation, and ensure the protection of the Commonwealth’s water resources.  Water withdrawals from streams and rivers must be approved, including the withdrawal location and amount of water required for each well, as well as detailed storage and treatment plans. …

Some might ask how stringent are the regulations, and are they stringent enough. One of the regulatory agency representatives at a recent Marcellus Shale public meeting, said federal regulations are stronger than those in PA, but the feds only regulate a small portion of gas industry activities.

“The industry currently treats or recycles all of its flowback water. Recycling accounts for approximately 60 percent of the water used to complete Marcellus Shale wells, with greater percentages predicted for the future.  There are more than a dozen approved water treatment facilities available to treat flowback water, with plans for additional capacity in the future …

Some might ask what the nature of the treated or recycled end product actually is. How much of the original toxic materials and total dissolved solids (TDS) are removed by the treatment, and are ALL the permitted treatment facilities producing the same end product before discharge? Are some discharging only partly treated – or even untreated – fluid?  Is discharging any of the treated fluid into a waterway, injecting it deep into an abandoned well or burying it in a landfill environmentally benign and of no risk to public health? Also, given the number of wells currently producing flowback fluid, is a dozen treatment facilities adequate to protect the environment and public health?

“Claims about elevated levels of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in the Monongahela River from natural gas development have been refuted by studies that attribute a minimal amount of the total TDS levels to Marcellus Shale drilling activity. In fact, historical monitoring shows the variability of TDS levels in the Monongahela and other rivers to be a cyclical phenomenon over the past 30 years. …
Some might say that TDS is a scientifically-established environmental pollutant, known to damage freshwater aquatic organisms, endanger public health, interfere with potable water supplier’s services and with industries using water. They might ask whether adding more TDS to the Monongahela – or to any waterway – makes sense, regardless of whether the TDS comes from gas drilling activities or from some other source.
To read the entire press release, click here:

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/marcellus-shale-coalition-releases-the-facts-on-flowback-water-treatment-83561557.html

For those unfamiliar with what the Marcellus Shale Coalition is, click here: http://www.pamarcellus.com/

Law on gas drilling still in flux…

From The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA 1/29/10:

BENTON – With interest increasing in drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, there’s a whole swirl of legislation related to it being considered in Harrisburg, but much of it comes down to money. “A lot of what goes on in Harrisburg is who’s gonna pay to make the pie and who’s going to get a piece,” said state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Lycoming. “The fight is how we’re going to divide up the pie. …

We want to see the Commonwealth get its fair share, but we also don’t want to … go New York on them and drive them away.” …  Everett described the intention and status of nearly 20 bills throughout the legislature, noting that they fit into four categories: taxation and where the money goes, water protection, access to information and surface-owner rights. While some likely won’t ever see a vote, Everett said a few will probably pass this session, including a bill that would require companies to release well production information within six months instead of the current five years. …

Robert Yowell, the director of the DEP’s north-central regional office, said the rush to drill in the shale happened so quickly that DEP is still trying to catch up with regulations. Likewise, he said, companies are still becoming acquainted with differences here from where they’re used to drilling. “When they first came to town, I don’t think they realized how widely our streams fluctuated,” he said. …

To read the full article, click here:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/hottopics/shale/Law_on_gas_drilling_still_in_flux__public_told_01-29-2010.html

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: