Some federal lawmakers still want the US Environmental Protection Agency to take a bigger role in regulating surface activities connected with onshore oil and gas exploration and development. Officials from two states with significant energy resource potential recently said their agencies have the authority and experience to continue doing the job.
Scott Perry, acting deputy secretary in the oil and gas management office in Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection, and J. Michael Biddison, deputy director of Ohio's Department of Natural Resources, separately noted that each of their states was prominent in early US oil and gas industry history.
Consequently, each had regulated oil and gas production before technology made it possible to tap the Marcellus and other US shale formations, they said during a Nov. 8 forum at the US Energy Association.
Pennsylvania is one of the few states that make producers get a permit to control erosion and sediment, and its clean streams law is more stringent than the federal Clean Water Act, Perry said. As production grew from the Marcellus shale, which crosses the state, disposal of produced and waste water became a serious problem until the state specified that drinking water standards had to be met, he said.
The state has a strong enforcement regime, he maintained. Three contaminated drinking water incidents occurred when gas well operators didn't follow regulations, Perry said. Producers seeking gas from deeper shales must take precautions or their well bores could be penetrated as they drill through shallower, less-productive formations, he explained.
In Ohio's favor
Biddison noted that while Ohio's shale gas production isn't as advanced as Pennsylvania's, it has more sophisticated production facilities, better gathering systems, adequate compression and gas processing capacity, and several gas liquids fractionation plants. It also has about 181 underground injection wells permitted and operating, he added.
This will be significant not only in developing its relatively small part of the Marcellus shale, but also in tapping the Point Pleasant portion of the deeper Utica shale farther west, Biddison said.
His department's challenge is gearing up for more oil and gas development as Ohio confronts budget problems. When John R. Kasich (R) became governor in January, he faced an $8 billion deficit and proposed reducing state payrolls to help eliminate it.
Consequently, Biddison said, the agency he leads doesn't have as many inspectors as he would like, but he still has some time with only five shale gas wells in production. "I can't say we'd be prepared if 100 rigs moved in immediately," he continued. "But most producers I speak with say they're in the evaluation stage and not ready to drill."