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Pennsylvania DEP to Uphold Changes to Oil/Gas Advisory Board

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said it won't reconsider Secretary John Quigley's move to appoint four nonvoting members to its Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board, despite staunch objections from an industry trade group.

During a board meeting last week, DEP attorney Elizabeth Nolan said the move was legal under state law and that the decision had already been made. She added that DEP has "a responsibility to develop regulations in an open and transparent manner with input from the public."

In February, DEP created a seven-member committee to consult with the agency on its regulation of the state's conventional oil and gas industry (see Shale Daily, Feb. 23). It also said the five-member advisory board would focus on larger oil and gas companies drilling for unconventional resources. Quigley dismissed the board's five new members, appointed new ones and added four nonvoting members, including from Carnegie Mellon University and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council to represent the public's interests.

In a recent letter to the new advisory board members, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA) strongly objected to the move, questioned its legality and recommended that the board reverse Quigley's nonvoting appointments (see Shale Daily, April 14).

PIOGA had argued that under state law the board is to consist of five members only, but the agency said the law merely sets a minimum. Nolan went further during last week's meeting and said there is no language in the law that would allow for the nonvoting members to be dismissed now that the appointments have been made.

The dispute comes as the agency continues work on drilling regulations that have been ongoing for about four years. Under Quigley, the agency has also proposed several provisions to tighten the regulations, including more stringent requirements for centralized wastewater impoundments and greater protections for public resources such as schools, playgrounds and drinking water protection areas (see Shale Daily, March 9). The proposed rules are open for public comment until May 19 and are expected to be implemented next year.

Both the Marcellus Shale Coalition and PIOGA, along with other trade groups, have criticized the latest proposals, saying the industry would be subject to tighter rules than other industries (see Shale Daily, April 8).

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