Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday signed into law amendments to the state's 1984 Coal and Gas Resource Coordination Act, which will require natural gas drillers to coordinate their activities with active coal mine operations.

SB 265, sponsored by state Sen. Mary Jo White (R), sailed through the Senate (45-4) in early March and the House (191-1) in April. The bill updates the 27-year-old law with new definitions for gas drilling activity. Among other things, the new rules would require a minimum distance between gas wells, designated well classes and coordinated gas well drilling undertaken through active coal mines.

All gas permit applications that call for penetrating an active coal mine would require the gas well operator to create "adequate and safe" spacing between gas wells and "well clusters," defined as well pads that hold "multiple horizontal wells." Without permission from the coal mine operator, well clusters would have to be at least 2,000 feet apart and comprise an area no larger than 5,000 square feet.

Gas drillers also would be required to supply a well bore deviation survey to coal mine owners within 60 days of completing drilling operations. The bill allows a dispute resolution process for gas drillers and coal mine operators.

In addition, the Department of Environmental Protection is required under the new rules to commission an independent study to update one done in 1956 that would assess the pillar sizes around active or inactive gas wells to ensure their integrity, as well as to adequately protect coal miners. Based on the study's findings, the state's Environmental Quality Board may allow modifications to the maximum square feet for a well cluster.

To read the full text of the legislation visit the General Assembly's website.