Meadville Tribune

Local News

January 9, 2014

Public can comment on oil/gas regulation changes

MEADVILLE — On Wednesday night, the public gets a chance to comment on proposed changes to Pennsylvania’s environmental regulations at oil and gas sites.

The Environmental Quality Board holds a public hearing at Meadville Area Senior High School at 6 p.m. on proposed amendments to existing regulations for surface activities with the development of oil and gas wells. Those activities include waste disposal, containing regulated substances, site restoration and spill reporting.

The proposed regulations also take into account regulations for unconventional gas wells regarding identifying the impacts to public resources, standards for freshwater and wastewater impoundment, well site containment systems, wastewater processing and water management plans, according to the Environmental Quality Board. The EQB is a 20-member independent board that adopts all Department of Environmental Protection regulations and considers petitions to change DEP regulations.

The proposed changes are aimed at lessening the potential impacts oil and gas activities may have on the environment but still give the oil and gas industry ample opportunity to develop Pennsylvania’s oil and gas resources.

“This holds great promise as it evolves,” Jack Lynch said of Pennsylvania’s development of the Utica and Marcellus shale natural gas well industry. Both Utica and Marcellus are deep underground areas of natural gas deposits.

Lynch, vice chairman of Crawford County commissioners, serves as chairman of the Crawford County Oil and Gas Task Force that was formed by county commissioners to look at the shale gas industry’s impact on the county.

Lynch is planning to testify at Wednesday night’s hearing — one of six scheduled around Pennsylvania.

“We’re interested in promoting the industry and being part of industry-wide best practices,” Lynch said. “We want to let them know about the French Creek water shed and hold it up as an example of drilling in an environmentally sensitive area.”

The proposed regulation changes include requirements to:

-Locate abandoned and orphaned wells

-Add additional safety/security measures at well sites such as fences and locks

-Inspect and test the integrity of on-site waste storage pits

-Have secondary containment for permanent storage tanks on well sites

-Have additional reporting and record keeping requirements

“We have to let the state and industry know that local government and quasi-governmental groups are keenly interested in this,” Lynch said.

Gary Clark, spokesman for DEP’s northwest regional office in Meadville, said once all six Environmental Quality Board hearings are completed later this winter, the board will make recommendations to DEP.

DEP is expected to take action on the proposed regulations, possibly later this year, Clark said.

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