On March 31st the Pennsylvania House Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy began consideration of an expansive piece of legislation imposing new requirements on gas drilling operators in relation to the rights of land surface owners. The Bill proposes:
- prior notice to surface owners prior to entry upon land for certain pre-drilling activities,
- notice to surface owners within one half mile of a proposed well prior to submission of a Well Permit application,
- plan and notice content requirements,
- a mandatory offer to enter into a “surface use and compensation agreement”,
- required contents of a surface use and compensation agreement,
- a definition of required compensation to surface owners,
- provisions for enforcing compensation obligations,
- a requirement to post security for compensation,
- obligations for the restoration or replacement of polluted water supplies and a presumption of operator responsibility for pollution of water supplies within 2,500 feet of a well occuring within six months after completion of drilling or alteration,
- a provision for recovery of attorneys fees and for treble damages in certain instances of failure to comply with the Act.
The PaDEP would be prohibited from issuing a Well Permit or renewing an existing permit if the operator is not in compliance with with the Act, placing DEP squarely into a role of protecting surface owner rights established by the bill, if enacted.
The full text of HB1155 can be viewed by clicking here.
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