By Keith Gushard
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.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.
The Environmental Quality Board holds a public hearing on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Meadville Area Senior High School auditorium, 930 North St., to accept comments on proposed changes to environmental protection performance standards at oil and gas well sites in Pennsylvania.
People wanting to testify are to contact the Environmental Quality Board at (717) 787-4526 to reserve time to present testimony. Verbal testimony is limited to five minutes for each witness. Witnesses are requested to submit three written copies of their verbal testimony to the hearing chair. Organizations are limited to designating one witness to present testimony on their behalf at each hearing.
All public comments on the proposed Department of Environmental Protection regulation changes to oil and gas sites must be submitted to the Environmental Quality Board by Feb. 12. To view the proposed regulation changes, visit dep.state.pa.us and click the “Proposed Oil and Gas Regulations” button.
Comments and a one-page summary may be submitted to Environmental Quality Board by accessing the board’s Online Public Comment System at ahs.dep.pa.gov/RegComments.
Written comments and summaries should be mailed to Environmental Quality Board, P.O. Box 8477, Harrisburg, Pa. 17105-8477. The summaries and a formal comment and response document will be distributed to the EQB and available publicly prior to the meeting when the final rulemaking will be considered.
Comments may also be submitted via email to RegComments@pa.gov. If an acknowledgment of comments submitted online or by email is not received by the sender within two business days, the comments should be re-sent to the EQB to ensure receipt.