New Rules! Environmental Contingent Makes Recommendations to Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission

Environmentalists Push Stricter Regulation for Gas Drillers
SOURCE: Donald Gilliland, THE (HARRISBURG) PATRIOT-NEWS, Thursday, June 2, 2011
The four environmental groups on the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission agree they want to see stricter regulation of wastewater from drilling, better planning, and updates to the Oil and Gas Act aimed at improving safety and collecting data. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy submitted a total of 20 recommendations to the commission. Three of the four groups support the “timely enactment of a fair and meaningful fee or tax” on shale gas, with some of the proceeds allocated to “Growing Greener” programs.

The groups were unanimous in their support of tighter regulation of highly polluted wastewater from drilling. They say the recent Department of Environmental Protection request that companies not take wastewater to treatment plants where it is released into rivers “should become a legally enforceable requirement.”

They also call for trucks transporting the waste to keep complete manifests — including the source of the waste, the destination and a complete list of chemicals and compounds — and for those manifests to be submitted to the DEP.

There was also unanimous agreement that drilling sites should be held to the same standards for erosion and sedimentation as construction sites.

Six of the proposals explicitly relate to improved planning, specifically calling for increased coordination to reduce forest fragmentation and impacts to threatened species.

The groups propose changes to the Oil and Gas Act that would drastically alter the permitting process, which emphasizes speed of approval as opposed to comprehensive planning. They propose a two-phase process in which site location permits would require a host of planning elements, including notification of local officials and residents, water quality data, impacts to threatened species and public comment. Phase one permits would be good for three years and transferable to other companies. Phase two — for authorization to drill — would follow the current process.

The four groups were also united in calling for the state to require more detailed information from drilling companies, including a complete list of chemicals used at each site as well as drilling records indicating depth of potable aquifers encountered, radioactive logs and all geologic formations in which methane was encountered.
More complete information could help solve the problem of gas migration, which even industry groups admit has perplexed them.

A drilling log from one Marcellus well in the northern tier showed methane present in every geologic level below about 40 feet.

The environmental groups call for increased set-back requirements and mandated testing of private water wells within 2,500 feet of a well site before drilling begins.

They also call for the creation of “an independent and multi-disciplinary Marcellus Science Advisory Panel.”
The panel would recommend changes in policies and best practices based on its evaluation of the research.
The panel would also create a research agenda for Pennsylvania, prioritizing research needs and working with state agencies and universities to make sure those needs are met.

Both Gov. Tom Corbett and DEP Secretary Michael Krancer have stressed the need for environmental policy to be based on science.

Read more: Environmentalists push stricter regulation for gas drillers – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


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