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Public Comment on Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Rulemaking Ends May 19

The public comment period in the final rulemaking of the “Environmental Protection Performance Standards of Oil and Gas Well Sites” ends on May 19, after four years of revisions to and multiple rounds of comment on the regulations proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The revisions to Chapter 78 of the Pennsylvania Code, governing the protection of natural resources, include public resource protection, revisions to information collected in the permit application process and revisions to waste storage/management regulations. In addition, the revisions split Chapter 78 into two sections, one for conventional oil and gas development and one for unconventional development (i.e., fracking).

The DEP said it is specifically looking for comments regarding noise mitigation, centralized tank storage, and “other critical communities,” which are defined as animal and plant species not currently on the endangered list.

Permits 

Impacts to public resources will be considered in the application process. These resources include, but are not limited to, publicly owned parks and game lands, public drinking water wellhead protection areas, and playgrounds and schools, among other areas.

Additional review of the application may come from the Fish and Boat Commission, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Game Commission, and the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission. These agencies will have 30 days (instead of 15 days) to review permits.

Abandoned and orphaned wells in the vicinity of the proposed development must be reported in the permit application process, with a monitoring plan in place for drilling operations.

The permit renewal term will be extended from one year to two years. Drilling must be completed within 16 months of permit issue.

Proposed regulations require operators to restore drinking water impacted by drilling to either the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act or pre-drill conditions, whichever is of a higher quality. In addition, all remediation must be conducted in accordance with the Land Recycling and Environmental Remediation Standards Act.

Resource Protection

Requires operators of unconventional well sites to report to the DEP the amount and type of waste produced, and the method of disposal or reuse on a monthly basis.

Some additional permits may be required, including for operators using centralized wastewater storage impoundments.

The proposed regulations prohibit the use of pits for temporary storage of production fluids or wastes on unconventional well sites.

Storage and Disposal

In the event of a spill or release, the regulations require notification to owners and sampling of water supplies with the potential to be impacted.

Additionally, health standards for noise control from unconventional operations will be put into place.

A previously proposed requirement to remove older underground tanks was removed from the draft final rulemaking.

The draft makes a centralized tank storage site an option for natural gas drilling, with the proper permit approval and with geographical restrictions.

The proposed regulations require DEP approval of the disposal of waste and cuttings from below the casing seat at unconventional well sites.

For more details about the proposed regulations, visit Title 25 at pabulletin.com.

Written or electronic comments must be received by May 19, with a subject heading Oil and Gas Rulemaking and a return name and address. Faxes and voicemail will not be accepted.

Electronic comments can be submitted through the DEP online comment system at http://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/RegComments or by email to RegComments@pa.gov.

Written comments can be sent to the Department of Environmental Protection Policy Office, 400 Market Street, P.O. Box 2063, Harrisburg, PA 17105.

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