|Bradford County, PA 2012|
During January the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) held seven public hearings on the proposed new regulations regarding surface activities related to oil and gas well development. Apparently that’s not enough.
“One of the clear messages we’ve been getting through this hearing and comment process, from both industry and environmental groups, is that we should hold additional hearings and extend the comment period,” DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo told the press. So now DEP and EQB are holding two additional public hearings – one in Troy on Monday, Feb 10 and one in Warren on Wednesday, the 12th.
Just as important – they have extended the public comment period another 30 days to March 14. “Public participation is a key component when crafting these regulations, and we are happy to accommodate this extended period,” said Abruzzo.
The proposed regulations, approved by the Environmental Quality Board back at the end of August, would streamline the process for “considering potential impacts to public resources during the well permitting process”.
Some of the things the proposed regulations will cover:
- Requiring operators of gas and oil wells to identify any orphaned or abandoned wells within 1,000 feet of vertical and horizontal well bores prior to hydro-fracking – and require “visual monitoring” of the wells that may be affected by drilling. However, the new regs don’t require the operators to plug abandoned wells prior to drilling – only afterwards, if their fracking alters the abandoned well.
- Containment practices, using open pits for only temporary storage of materials and requiring tanks for longer term storage.
- Operator responses to spills and releases; and
- Requiring operators to restore a well site within “nine months of completion of drilling”.
Proposed regulations are posted on the DEP website here.
Citizens and environmental groups have listed a number of concerns about the proposed regulations. PennFuture, a citizens’ group advocating for strong environmental and public health policies since 1998, outlines a number of these concerns in a recent blog post. tml
Among them: concern about spreading brine on roads, inadequate standards for restoration of drilling and impoundment sites, and extending DEP’s duty to investigate water pollution to include all oil and gas activities – not just those that occur near the wells.
You can read the comments made by citizens – and industry representatives – attending public hearings by clicking on links at the bottom of the DEP’s web page.
How to comment on the proposed rules:
Submit online comments. Along with their comments, people can submit a one-page summary of their comments to the EQB. Comments, including the one page summary, may be submitted to EQB by accessing the EQB’s OnlinePublic Comment System (http://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/RegComments/Agreement.aspx)
Submit written comments. Mail written comments and summaries to Environmental Quality Board, P.O. Box 8477, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8477.
Submit comments by email. RegComments@pa.gov
The last two public hearings will be:
Feb. 10, 2014, Troy High School Auditorium, 150 High St., Troy, PA 16947
Feb. 12, 2014, Warren County Courthouse, main courtroom, 204 4th Ave., Warren, PA 16365