New Rules! For Marcellus Drilling, Explained

PennFuture Presents Just The Fracts on PA Act 13, The Marcellus Shale Act

Of the major environmental organizations opposed to Fracking in Pennsylvania, few push harder than Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, or PennFuture. This vibrant non-profit has been fighting for environmental justice since its inception, and in 2009 the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) named PennFuture as its official representative in Pennsylvania. Their tagline, “Every environmental victory grows the economy” resonates because sustainable energy must also be economical in order to generate sufficient demand. PennFuture has a long, distinguished history but it’s more interesting, perhaps, to know what the group is doing right now.

According to George Jugovic Jr., President & CEO:

  • We’re working to replace old, outdated dirty sources of power with clean, renewable Pennsylvania-made electricity.
  • We’re fighting factory farm pollution.
  • We’re helping to stop damage from mining and drilling.
  • We’re protecting watersheds from sprawl and pollution.
  • We’re reducing global warming pollution.
  • We’re watchdogging state government.
  • We’re providing $2 million per year of free legal services to protect the environment.

Putting ACT 13 In Layperson’s Terms (Thank You)

On April 23, 2012, Susan Philips posted a link to a pdf of PennFuture’s new Fact Sheet in Plain Language Version of Pennsylvania’s New Drilling Law Published. The Fact Sheet covers the highlights (lowlights, really) of the new Marcellus Shale Law. I found it very helpful in my attempt to understand just how badly Governor Corbett has undercut the Commonwealth with the bill he and Senator Joe Scarnati strong-armed Philadelphia area democrats to vote for. So here it is, in its entirety:

Key Provisions of Pennsylvania’s New Oil & Gas Law

by Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future

  • County governments must decide whether a fee should be imposed on shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania. If the county resists imposing a fee, that county would not benefit from the income derived from the fee.
  • The fee is not used solely to address the direct and indirect impacts of shale gas drilling. Income from the fee will go to a wide range of recipients, from state agencies and local government to private entities, and for a complex group of purposes, including water and sewer projects, the treatment of acid mine drainage, and promoting private development.
  • The Public Utility Commission is responsible for collecting and distributing the fee. The PUC is also responsible for deciding whether local zoning ordinances violate the restrictions imposed by the law on local government.
  • The PUC’s review of the local zoning ordinance is exempt from the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act and other state statutes designed to ensure transparency and fairness in administrative agency proceedings, so the public will not be able to oversee the proceedings.
  • There are a number of instances where Act 13 does not allow the public access to drillers’ records – including records used by the Public Utility Commission to determine how much money is to be collected from shale gas producers.
  • By law, income from the lease of oil and gas rights on public lands must be deposited in the Oil and Gas Lease Fund. These funds go to conservation projects associated with public lands. Act 13 diverts a portion of that money to other purposes, such as to fund the Environmental Stewardship Fund and Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund.
  • Act 13 establishes new environmental protection requirements for unconventional gas development that differ from the rules for traditional gas wells in Pennsylvania. For example, drillers of unconventional wells must identify water wells within 3000 feet from an unconventional gas well, as opposed to 1000 feet for conventional gas wells.
  • The setback requirements do not protect small wetlands or intermittent streams.
  • Under most environmental statutes, DEP inspectors – the persons trained to observe violations of law – have the right to stop unlawful conduct by issuing field orders to the person suspected of violating the law. Under the new law, DEP inspectors cannot cease drilling operations – only the secretary of the DEP can take that action.
  • The right of municipalities to make local decisions such as imposing zoning restrictions on the development of unconventional shale gas is now severely limited, and the right of local government to appeal individual permit decisions is eliminated.
  • Act 13 requires that all oil and gas operations other than surface impoundments, processing plants and compressor stations shall be allowed in all zoning districts, including residential districts. Impoundments and compressor stations must be allowed in residential districts as a conditional use. Only processing plants need not be allowed in a residential district.
  • Act 13 imposes strict time limits on when a municipality must issue a decision on any permitted or conditional use application. The municipality must decide permitted use applications within 30 days; and conditional use applications within 120 days. These timelines only apply to applications associated with the oil and gas business.
  • Act 13 requires that unconventional gas wells be constructed in a manner designed to protect fresh groundwater zones through the use of multiple casings and cement.
  • Well operators must keep track of where their wastewater from drilling operations is transported and disposed or reused, but the public may never have access to those records. DEP only gets to review them if they request their production.
  • Operators do not need to identify chemicals or additives, or concentrations of chemicals in fluids used for hydraulic fracturing if the company claims the information to be a Trade Secret or confidential business information.
  • Emergency personnel and health professionals can obtain this confidential information, but they themselves must keep it confidential – even where a medical emergency exists.
  • There is no obvious way to challenge the company’s claim that a specific chemical or concentration of chemicals is a Trade Secret or confidential business information.
  • The natural gas industry must submit annual air emission reports to the DEP that explain how the operator calculated the emissions. There is no requirement that the companies determine their emissions using a uniform standard or procedure.
  • Private companies now have the power of eminent domain to promote the development of gas storage facilities.

To read the full report, “Pennsylvania’s New Oil and Gas Law (Act 13): A Plain Language Guide and Analysis” go to www.pennfuture.org/marcellus

To stay current on important Marcellus Gas Drilling issues, Take Action, Join, or attend a Local PennFuture Event.

SIGN THE PETITION FOR A MORATORIUM ON DRILLING!
With more than 35,000 signatures, PennEnvironment’s Marcellus Moratorium Petition has become one of the largest to date. Details from Adam Garber, Field Director for PennEnvironment:

Help us get to 4,000 more Pennsylvanians to join the fight? Its easy to help spread the word. Just forward the email at the bottom it to everyone you know who cares about the environment, even if you’ve already sent it to them before. Ask them to sign the moratorium petition to celebrate Earth Day, April 22nd. We’re sure that if enough people make this their Earth Day action, we can beat our goal and take a strong stand against gas drilling.

Here are other ways you can share:
Copy, personalize and forward the below email to friends.Or, write your own email and include the petition link so they can sign: http://bit.ly/PAMoratorium

If you are on Facebook, click here to post the petition to your Wall.

If you have a Twitter account, click here to automatically Tweet: 35k Pennsylvanians have called for a #fracking moratorium. Help us put health and enviro first for #EarthDay. Sign today: http://bit.ly/PANoFrack #marcellus

With your support, I know we can reach thousands more Pennsylvanians.   

Thanks, Adam

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3 Responses to “New Rules! For Marcellus Drilling, Explained”

  1. Julie A. Edgar Says:

    mmmmm, i don’t know how things are now that Jan Jarrett has moved on, but when she headed up PennFuture and i saw her live at panel discussions and at other events, she always sounded very moderate (as if she subscribed to the “regulation will make things safe” school of thought); she even sounded like an industry rep to me! Just because PennFuture points out flaws in Act 13 does not mean that they support a ban or even a moratorium. But thanks for this resource, of which i was not aware.

  2. Liz Rosenbaum Says:

    Hear that, Julie! Jarrett was way too comfortable with the gasholes destroying our state! I have heard Jugovic testify about Marcellus Air Emissions, however, and he was strongly critical of the DEP’s current approach. He the former general counsel, and he stuck me as someone who could get beyond Krancer’s hyper-intellectualized gas propaganda and really challenge him on the environmental issues.

    Their petition says: “Support a moratorium on further shale gas extraction in Pennsylvania until it is proven safe for our environment and the public’s health.” I took it to mean they want to put a stop to this madness. i don’t know, but let’s hope!

    The PennFuture petition https://secure3.convio.net/engage/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=4747

  3. Liz Rosenbaum Says:

    the PA-CLAW petition is more specific!

    https://www.change.org/petitions/no-new-permits-a-moratorium-for-pennsylvania

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