Archive for February, 2012

Governor Corbett Signs Marcellus Shale Bill Into Law – by Joel R. Burcat, Esq.

On February 14, 2012, Governor Tom Corbett signed into law H.B. 1950, the new Marcellus Shale law. The new law, Act 13 of 2012, will completely update the regulatory system associated with oil and gas drilling, establish a drilling impact fee and will largely supersede and preempt local regulation of oil and gas drilling and related activities. For Saul Ewing’s analysis of the new law, click here.

In a news release from Governor Corbett’s Office, the Governor was quoted as saying:

“This growing industry will provide new career opportunities that will give our children a reason to stay here in Pennsylvania. Thanks to this legislation, this natural resource will safely and fairly fuel our generating plants and heat our homes while creating jobs and powering our state’s economic engine for generations to come.”

The provisions of Act 13, that allow counties to adopt ordinances imposing impact fees go into effect immediately. The remainder of the law, including new regulatory standards and preemption, go into effect 60 days following the signing of the Act into law. For a copy of Act 13, click here.

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Pennsylvania General Assembly Passes New Oil and Gas Law

On February 7, 2012 and February 8, 2012 the Pennsylvania Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively, voted in favor of the Conference Committee’s Report of House Bill 1950. H.B. 1950 (Printer’s No. 3048), enacting extensive amendments to the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act. H.B. 1950 will bring Pennsylvania’s regulation of oil and gas into the 21st century and will establish for the first time an unconventional gas well “impact” fee.

Governor Tom Corbett is expected to quickly sign the bill into law. The drilling impact fee will go into effect immediately upon being signed into law. All other provisions of the bill will go into effect 60 days after the governor signs it into law.

The bill contains provisions allocating the impact fee proceeds to a variety of local and state uses linked to the impact of widespread drilling activities. A key section of H.B. 1950 rewrites Pennsylvania’s law dealing with the regulation of oil and gas drilling with new mandates for permitting, bonding of well sites, setbacks, water replacement, and other regulatory provisions. H.B. 1950 also limits the ability of municipalities to regulate oil and gas drilling, pipelines, compressors, gas processing facilities, and related equipment by mandating greater uniformity of local zoning regulation.

This new bill will have a wide ranging impact on oil and gas exploration and production companies, pipeline companies, landowners, municipalities, and all others involved in conventional and unconventional oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania. Since approximately 60 percent of Pennsylvania is underlain by such formations, the bill will have a wide geographic and even social impact.
For a full analysis of H.B. 1950 by Saul Ewing environmental lawyer Joel R. Burcat, click here

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Pennsylvania DEP Proposes New General Permit for Earth Disturbance Activities Associated with Oil and Gas and Pipeline Projects By Andrew T. Bockis, Esq.

On Saturday January 21, 2012, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will be publishing proposed terms for a new general permit to be used by oil and gas and pipeline companies for earth disturbance activities associated with oil and gas drilling and transmission projects. The Department will also be publishing a draft 17-page policy document regarding the framework within which the Department states it will exercise its administrative discretion under the proposed permit.

The proposed terms, together with the draft policy document, are subject to a 60-day public comment period, which will expire on March 20, 2012. The proposed terms, which may be amended based on public comments submitted to the Department, will ultimately result in the issuance of a new general permit under which oil and gas exploration and production companies, along with pipeline companies, can conduct earth disturbance activities.

The proposed general permit includes a major re-write of the currently existing general permit. Among other things, the proposed general permit:

• Provides for an optional expedited 14-day permit review process for projects, except those located in special protection watersheds.

• Offers an optional phased permit process for operators seeking to conduct earth disturbance activities in phases.

• Provides a process for permittees to make minor modifications to approved plans in the field based on real world conditions.

• Requires a permit application to be submitted by a licensed professional “who has attended up-to-date training provided by the Department’s Office of Oil and Gas Management” on erosion and sediment control and post construction stormwater management for oil and gas activities.

In sum, the proposed revisions would add ten pages to the currently existing general permit.

The proposed general permit, together with the proposed policy document, is available here.

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