DEP Outlines Major Changes In Final Version Of Chapter 78 Drilling Regulations

The Department of Environmental Protection Monday outlined changes in a revised final version of Chapter 78 drilling regulations covering conventional and unconventional oil and gas wells which Acting DEP Secretary John Quigley said respond to the public’s concerns about drilling.

“These proposed revisions focus on the need to protect public safety and the environment while enabling drilling to proceed,” said Acting DEP Secretary John Quigley.  “These areas reflect the emphasis of the comments we received. We received more than 24,000 comments, and want to be deliberate and transparent as we seek continued input on the proposed revisions from our advisory committees and the public.”

DEP plans to publish the changes for public comment in April and have them reviewed by its advisory groups covering conventional and unconventional oil and gas well operations.

The changes include--

-- Retains the 100 foot setback from streams and wetlands for drilling pads, not just from the actual well;

-- Eliminates temporary on-site wastewater storage impoundments;

-- Requires closure of centralized wastewater storage impoundments within three years, any that wish to remain open will have to be re-permitted as a residual waste facility;

-- Operators will have to conduct an impact analysis of public resources from the edge of the drilling pad and adds schools, playgrounds and DEP-designated well protection areas and gives DEP the authority to condition a drilling permit to protect those resources.  The proposal extends the review times for public resource agencies from 15 to 30 days;

-- Operators must now identify active and inactive wells as well as orphan and abandoned wells and adds a well monitoring component;

-- Operators must restore drinking water wells to pre-drilling condition or to meet state Safe Drinking Water Act standards;

-- A new noise mitigation requirement is added for unconventional wells; and

-- Adds requirements to require conventional well operators to provide notification to surface owners of certain drilling-related activities, including the disposal of waste onsite.

Chapter 78 as originally proposed covered both conventional and unconventional oil and gas wells, however, a provision in the Fiscal Code passed last July required DEP to split the package into two separate sets of regulations, one covering conventional-- Chapter 78-- and the other unconventional-- Chapter 78A.

DEP will review the proposed final revisions on March 20 with the Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board and on March 26 with the new Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee.

Those who cannot attend in person may tune in via webinar. To participate in the webinar, pre-registration is required at least 30 minutes prior to the start of each session.

Click Here to register for morning session, Click Here to register for the afternoon session of the TAB (unconventional) meeting.  Click Here to register for the morning session, Click Here to register for the afternoon session of the COGAC (conventional) meeting.

All the existing members of the TAB Committee are being replaced with new members by the Wolf Administration which will also add several ad hoc members.  The Conventional Advisory Committee is entirely new.

The agency is expected to release the changes in the form of an Advanced Notice of Final Rulemaking for a 30 day public comment period starting April 4.  No public hearings are planned at this time.

In proposing the original Chapter 78 regulations in late 2013 and early 2014, DEP held 9 public hearings around the state, two webinars and had a 90 day public comment period.

DEP anticipates going to the Environmental Quality Board with a final regulation in late 2015 and expects the rules to be finalized in the Spring of 2016.

Proposed final Chapter 78A - unconventional drilling-- is now on DEP’s Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board webpage.  Click Here for DEP’s PowerPoint presentation on the proposed final rule.

For more information, DEP’s Oil and Gas Regulations webpage.


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