Lt. Gov. Cawley: Marcellus Shale Commission Issues Final Report
Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley Friday released the final report of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, taking the first step toward developing a comprehensive and strategic plan for responsible natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.
The unanimously-adopted report contains 96 policy recommendations that include tougher regulations for drilling, doubling fines for violations, creating jobs in related industries and promoting the use of natural gas vehicles.
"Today, Pennsylvania is taking an important, first step toward creating tens of thousands of jobs and leading the nation toward energy independence and doing so in an environmentally responsible way," said Cawley.
Some of the key recommendations the panel made to Gov. Corbett include:
Economic & Workforce Development
-- The Commonwealth should identify strategic locations to construct regional business parks capable of tapping into existing infrastructure, partnering with local economic development agencies to seek the development of and utilize available funding incentives.
-- The state should create financial incentives for the conversion of mass transit and school bus fleets to natural gas, as well as for the manufacture of engines and other component parts, utilizing available funding sources.
-- The Department of Community and Economic Development should work closely with its regional economic development partners and gas producers to grow the number of existing manufacturing firms participating in the shale gas industry. This would be accomplished by helping suppliers adapt their products, meet industry standards, market their services and resources and identify qualified suppliers.
-- Pennsylvania should create a gas safety inspector training center within Pennsylvania. Oklahoma currently is the only state with such a training program.
-- Pennsylvania should designate a state agency to create a “one-stop” permitting process while expanding the use of general permits to authorize routine development activities as well as maintain jurisdiction over multi-county linear pipeline projects and ensure appropriate notifications have been made to local jurisdictions.
-- The Commonwealth should expand its rail freight facilities and capabilities to relieve the burden imposed upon roads and bridges from the transportation of sand, water, pipe and other commodities associated with natural gas development.
Public Health, Safety & Environmental Protection
-- Increase bonding amounts from $2,500 to $10,000 and more for deeper wells.
-- Up to $250,000 for blanket bonds.
-- Triple well setback distance from streams, ponds, and other bodies of water from 100 to 300 feet.
-- Increase setback distance from private water wells from 200 to 500 feet and to 1,000 feet for public water systems.
-- Expand operator’s presumed liability for impairing water quality from 1,000 ft to 2,500 feet from a well, and extends the duration of presumed liability from 6 months to 12 months.
-- Require minimum 24‐hour notification before commencing certain well site activities.
-- Post critical information online, including violations, penalties and remedial actions.
-- Expand public disclosure and information through enhanced well production and completion reporting.
Double penalties for civil violations from $25,000 to $50,000.
-- Double daily penalties from $1,000 to $2,000 a day.
-- Make penalties for criminal violations consistent with other environmental statutes.
-- Enhance DEP’s ability to suspend, revoke or deny drilling permits for failure to comply.
-- Establish an advisory committee within DCNR to discuss future development of state forest and park land.
-- Document and monitor effects of industry on plants, forests, wildlife, habitat, water, soil and recreational resources.
-- Review and regularly update best management practices for well site construction and operation.
-- Expand PA Natural Resource Inventory on‐line tool to accommodate linear projects longer than 15,000 feet.
-- Prevent spread of invasive plant species.
-- The Department of Health should create, or oversee the creation of, a population-based health registry with the purpose of characterizing and following over time individuals who live in proximity to gas drilling and production sites.
-- Any future leasing of state forest land should be limited to agreements which result in no or minimal surface impact to state-owned land, and prohibits surface disturbance in high conservation value forests and other ecologically important areas.
Local Impacts and Emergency Response
-- Oil and gas well pads and related facilities should be assigned a 9-1-1 address for emergency response purposes, and oil and gas operators should be required to provide GPS coordinates for access roads and well pad sites.
-- Recommend enactment or authorization to impose a fee to mitigate to uncompensated
impacts caused to communities by natural gas development. Any fee should recognize on‐going nature of certain impacts. Attributable impacts identified by the advisory commission include: Environmental remediation; Public health evaluation and emergency response; Increased demand on social services; Infrastructure improvements; and Natural resource agency administration and oversight.
"This commission brought the industry, environmental groups and local government leaders together to the same table where we methodically and publicly worked out these comprehensive recommendations," said Cawley.
Gov. Corbett formed the 30-member commission in March, giving them 120 days to develop recommendations on all aspects of natural gas drilling. The commission held 21 public meetings, heard 60 expert presentations and reviewed more than 650 emails and letters from the public.
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