New Regulations of Shale Drilling Take Effect
Chapter 78A regulations strengthen water protections and improve public data access
New Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations on unconventional gas drilling will be published in the October 8, 2016 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin and become effective upon publication. The new rules regulate unconventional drilling practices and hydraulic fracturing, as well as related activities. DEP has worked extensively with the natural gas industry to prepare for smooth adoption of the new requirements, which will help protect Pennsylvania’s air, water, natural resources as well as the health of residents.
“These regulations are a long time in coming and have undergone one of the most transparent and participatory processes ever overseen by DEP,” said Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “The final result is a set of regulations that increase protection for public resources and water supplies, improve data transparency, enhance access to relevant information for the public, and help provide business certainty to the industry.”
The new rules, which have been under development since 2011, are the first modernization of the Commonwealth’s oil and gas surface regulations since the implementation of new horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques to capture natural gas from Pennsylvania's shale deposits.
Many of the changes to the regulations were made to comply with the 2012 Oil and Gas Act (known as Act 13). Among the changes to the current regulations:
“DEP heard from thousands of citizens across multiple comment periods and a dozen public hearings, as well numerous meetings with industry representatives, and the regulations have been improved as a result. We are very proud of the regulations we are putting into effect,” said McDonnell. “These regulations codify many of the common industry practices to create some of the most protective regulations in the nation and ensure safe development of this important resource.”
Improved protections of public resources: DEP can require additional protective measures if drilling would be near school property and playgrounds, parks, forests, and other public resources.
Strengthened water supply restoration standards: If oil and gas development degrades a water supply, the operator must restore or replace the supply with one that meets Safe Drinking Water Act standards or is as good as pre-drilling conditions if the water supply was better than the Drinking Water Act standards.
Electronic filing: In order to more efficiently track well development and operations, and to provide better public access to drilling data, operators will be required to submit electronic forms rather than paper.
The final regulations can be found in the Pennsylvania Bulletin here: http://www.pabulletin.com/index.asp
Training sessions and information for oil and gas operators on complying with the new regulations has already begun – for more information and to view previous webinars, please click here: http://www.dep.pa.gov/Business/Energy/OilandGasPrograms/OilandGasMgmt/Public-Resources/Pages/Oil-and-Gas-Surface-Regulations.aspx