Pennsylvania’s DEP releases proposed changes to well site regulations

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) proposed changes to its regulations governing oil and gas well sites. The proposals aim to improve water resource protection, add public resource considerations, protect public safety, address landowner concerns, and enhance transparency by improving data management, DEP said.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) proposed changes to its regulations governing oil and gas well sites. The proposals aim to improve water resource protection, add public resource considerations, protect public safety, address landowner concerns, and enhance transparency by improving data management, DEP said.

“These areas reflect the emphasis of the comments we received,” Acting DEP Secretary John Quigley said on Mar. 9. “We received more than 24,000 comments, and want to be deliberate and transparent as we seek continued input on the proposed revisions from our advisory committees and the public.”

Specifically, DEP said, the proposed changes would:

• Require operators to demonstrate that streams and wetlands will be protected if the edge of the well pad is within 100 ft of the resource.

• Require centralized wastewater impoundments to be permitted through more appropriate Residual Waste Regulations (with existing impoundments upgraded or closed within 3 years of the effective date.

• Expand the review of impacts that operators must conduct to include public resources, such as schools, playgrounds and approved wellhead protection areas.

• Require operators to identify active, inactive, orphan and abandoned wells and submit a plan report to DEP at least 30 days prior to drilling.

• Create standards for noise control and mitigation.

• Modernize notification and report submission to improve efficiency and ease reporting.

DEP said the proposed amendments will be discussed at upcoming meetings of its Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board and Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee, which is being formed, in late March. After these advisory meetings, the proposals will be opened for a 30-day public comment period starting Apr. 4.

The agency said the proposed amendments were first opened for public comment on Dec. 14, 2013. Throughout that 90-day comment period, the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) held nine public hearings and the rulemaking received more than 24,000 comments.

The draft regulations include separate regulatory chapters to differentiate the unique characteristics of conventional and unconventional well development. DEP said that with the passage of Act 126 in 2014, Pennsylvania’s General Assembly explicitly acknowledged the distinction between these two very different operations, and directed DEP to draft separate regulations. Accordingly, the revisions include Chapter 78 for conventional wells, and Chapter 78a for unconventional wells, DEP said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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