PA’s Gas Regulatory Program Is “Demonstrably Deficient”

For Immediate Release                                        February 13, 2012

BRISTOL PA – The Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) announced the settlement of an appeal DRN filed with the PA Environmental Hearing Board concerning one of the first shale gas wells drilled in the Delaware River Basin.  The well is a vertical gas well and was not hydraulically fractured.

The appeal — filed in coordination with Damascus Citizens for Sustainability and local residents — involved the Newfield Appalachia PA, LLC “Woodlands” well in Damascus Township, Wayne County, Pennsylvania.  The well is located within the Hollister Creek watershed, a designated Special Protection High Quality (HQ) watershed.  The project is also within the Upper Delaware River Basin and is approximately 0.43 miles from the Delaware River.  This section of the Delaware River Watershed is located within the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, a National Wild and Scenic River.

During the course of the appeal, DRN conducted depositions of DEP personnel involved in approval of the well permit.  As a result of these depositions, DRN was able to establish that for well projects with under five (5) acres of earth disturbance, the Department has not considered the potential impacts of these projects on special protection watersheds.  DRN was also able to establish that for the wells that have been drilled within the Delaware River Basin, the Department has not considered the potential impacts of those wells on the Delaware River or the Delaware River Basin.  Further, DRN established that Department personnel who are responsible for reviewing permit applications have spent, on average, less than thirty-five (35) minutes per permit prior to granting final authorization.

As part of the settlement of this appeal, DRN and the other appellants were successful in obtaining important programmatic changes.  These changes will improve how future well permits are processed throughout Pennsylvania and will provide greater protection to Pennsylvania’s high quality and exceptional value watersheds.

“Pennsylvania’s regulatory program is demonstrably deficient when it comes to protecting waterways and communities from gas drilling, this litigation and our depositions just highlighted a few of those pitfalls.  Our settlement definitely secured important improvements to the review process, but we are under no misconception that this is in any way the cure for gas drilling in the Commonwealth,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper.

Under the terms of the settlement, DEP has agreed that for future shale gas projects in special protection watersheds (designated or existing use of High Quality or Exceptional Value pursuant to 25 Pa. Code Chapter 93), applicants must demonstrate compliance with the Commonwealth’s anti-degradation regulations prior to the commencement of any earth disturbance activities.  Prior to this settlement, for projects under five (5) acres, the Department was not requiring applicants to demonstrate this.

Contact: Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper 215-369-1188 x102
Jordan Yeager, lead attorney representing Delaware Riverkeeper Network 215-264-1166

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One Response to “PA’s Gas Regulatory Program Is “Demonstrably Deficient””

  1. Dory Hippauf Says:

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