By Andrew T. Bockis
As many of you know, the Environmental Quality Board proposed regulations back in July that would amend the Department of Environmental Protection’s Oil and Gas regulations set forth in 25 Pa. Code Ch. 78. A copy of the proposed regulations is available here. As set forth in the proposals, the EQB:
- Would update existing requirements regarding the drilling, casing, cementing, testing, monitoring, and plugging of oil and gas wells, and the protection of water supplies.
- Would update material specifications and performance testing, and revised design, construction, operational, monitoring, plugging, water supply replacement, and gas migration reporting requirements.
- Would significantly amend casing standards. The proposed cementing and casing standards would bring Pennsylvania in line with the regulatory requirements of New York, West Virginia, Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kansas and Montana.
- Would clarify operator responsibilities to restore or replace water supplies.
According to the EQB, the main purpose of the proposed rulemaking is to minimize concerns associated with gas migration.
The public comment period for the proposed regulations closed on August 9, 2010. About 260 “unique” public comments were submitted, although this number doesn’t include the several hundred form letters that were submitted. With the form letters included, DEP’s own Marcellus Shale Examiner puts the count at more than 2,000 comments.
By and large, the comments were in support of the regulations. Although there were a number of comments from industry, the comments appeared to be focused on technical issues and requests for clarification relating to the proposed casing standards, rather than comments that the proposals are burdensome. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise, however, as one of the purposes of the proposals was to align the Commonwealth’s regulations with that of other states’ as well as current industry standards.
Moving forward, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission has the option of weighing in with its own comments. The Department of Environmental Protection would then issue what is known as a comment-and-response document, citing the 2,000+ public comments and its response to them. Based on prior experience, it’s likely that IRRC’s comments, and DEP’s overall response, will be available before year’s end.
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