Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

Pennsylvania Senate Panel Approves Tighter Well Emergency Rules

In the wake of a well blowout last month in the Marcellus Shale, a Pennsylvania Senate committee has approved a bill (SB 995) that would require companies to provide to state and local authorities detailed emergency contact information for all of their wells in the state.

Well operators would be required to register with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and local emergency management organizations unique global positioning satellite (GPS) coordinate addresses for each gas or oil well. Emergency response plans would also have to be filed with state and local authorities, and emergency information, including contact information for the operator and the address and GPS coordinates, would have to be posted at the entrance to every well site.

"First responders have been telling me they often don't know where wellsites are being drilled or what dangers they will face when they arrive on scene, should they be called to a fire, spill, leak, worker injury or other emergency," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne). "We need the best information-sharing and coordination possible to prevent the loss of life and property."

The bill was introduced less than a week after a Chesapeake Energy Corp. well blowout in the Marcellus Shale in northeast Pennsylvania (see Shale Daily, April 25). Chesapeake voluntarily suspended completion operations in the state for more than three weeks while it investigated the cause of the incident (see Shale Daily, May 16). The company concluded that a valve flange connection to the wellhead failed during completion operations, which caused fluid to discharge at high pressure. The DEP issued a notice of violation to Chesapeake after concluding its investigation into the incident (see Shale Daily, April 26).

At a meeting of Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission last month, Mark Smith, chairman of the Bradford County Commission, testified that the county assigns 911 addresses to each well site and "we constantly work with the natural gas companies to ensure each site has a consistent 911 sign for each well site." A committee member said not all counties are taking the same precautions, according to Smith.

Baker is pushing for a vote on the bill by the full Senate in June.

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