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Group Calls for Continuing Work on Pennsylvania Regulations

As Pennsylvania worked toward overhauling environmental rules for shale development in February, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) said "while this legislation is not perfect, the people of Pennsylvania are better served by passage of this bill now than to wait another year or longer for something stronger."

Now, the group is offering its thoughts for how to make that overhaul, called Act 13, into "something stronger."

Specifically, the PEC wants the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to begin implementing aspects of the law that require new rulemaking, and wants the Pennsylvania General Assembly to address recommendations from the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission (MSAC) not handled in Act 13.

The group released a 30-page analysis comparing Act 13 to the July 2011 recommendations of the MSAC, as well as the 2010 and 2011 recommendations of the PEC (see Shale Daily, July 25, 2011; May 13, 2011).

While certain aspects of Act 13 went into effect immediately, and others -- such as an impact fee provision -- depend upon the approval of local governments, significant portions require DEP to now draft regulations. For instance, the PEC said DEP still needs to set criteria for water management plans, well site containment standards, tracking and reporting requirements for wastewater and air emissions, and chemical disclosures.

"We believe that there are a number of standards in the act that DEP and the industry can implement immediately through a repeat of the DEP Secretary's call for voluntary action of the part of the shale gas industry," the group said, referring to an April 2011 call from DEP for drillers to voluntarily stop sending wastewater from Marcellus Shale to grandfathered municipal treatment facilities, a call operators heeded (see Shale Daily, April 20, 2011).

All those issues are addressed in Act 13, but the PEC also believes the law fell short in certain areas and wants the General Assembly and the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett to continue refining state regulations this year.

Its recommendations include specific issues such as establishing construction standards for private water wells, a major priority of industry. A bill proposed by state Rep. Ron Miller, a Republican from York County, received a committee hearing earlier this year but stalled once budget hearings began in February (see Shale Daily, Jan. 13).

The PEC also wants to the state to promote the use of non-freshwater for hydraulic fracturing, establish adaptive best management practices and benchmarking, identify areas of high ecological value to improve planning efforts and strengthen public health evaluation and reporting. All of those ideas come from the final report of the MSAC. PEC Chairman Tony Bartolomeo served on the commission.

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