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Marcellus Group in Sync with Pennsylvania on Gas Well Rules

Members of the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) already have begun to implement a set of proposed rules by the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB) that, when finalized, will govern how gas wells should be constructed, the executive director told Shale Daily on Thursday.

The EQB, by a vote of 14-1, on Tuesday approved the proposed rules, which are scheduled to take effect by the end of the year. The well cementing and casing proposals are designed to help prevent gas from migrating from a well, which has been associated with contaminated water supplies and adverse impacts to public health and safety, the EQB said.

Additionally, drillers would be required to report production and waste volumes electronically and submit detailed reports about the chemicals used to hydraulically fracture (hydrofrack) wells.

"The EQB's actions will strengthen our regulations significantly, making them as strong as any in the country," said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary John Hanger. "They will lead to a decline in the number of incidents and problems we have experienced related to gas migration."

MSC members, some who served on a technical committee to assist the EQB in drafting the rules, already are following the proposed rules, said MSC's Executive Director Kathryn Klaber.

"Several of the members served on the [EQB] technical advisory board and have worked for the past 10 months...up to a year...to help the board get the rules modernized," Klaber said. "There are a lot of details in the regulations, and not all of the proposals that we wanted were adopted by the board. But they are clear, transparent, workable rules...

"The members wanted rules that are workable in the field and rules that detail how to construct a well, how the rules will be enforced. These rules do that."

The requirement to disclose hydrofracking chemicals used in gas well operations also are not onerous, Klaber said. Several Marcellus Shale producers have begun to post hydrofrack chemical information by well on their websites.

"The disclosure portion of the rules we welcome," she said. "We are ready to help implement a national standard for the industry to show we are not somehow hiding information from the general public...We want to be able to provide this information for first responders, regulatory authorities and the public."

The EQB approved the proposed rulemaking on gas well construction in May (see Daily GPI, May 18). During a subsequent 30-day public comment period and after five scheduled public hearings, the board received nearly 2,000 public comments, most of which were supportive, it said. DEP personnel also met with oil and gas operators, industry groups and environmental groups to discuss the regulations in detail.

The DEP used the public's input to make several changes to the regulations to further improve the well design requirements to prevent gas migration incidents, including provisions to require operators to:

In addition, the regulations would require operators to keep a list of emergency contact phone numbers at the well site and specify what actions an operator would take in the event of a gas migration incident. Amended provisions also clarify how and when blowout prevention equipment is to be installed and operated.

The proposed rules are scheduled to be reviewed by the state's Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) on Nov. 18, as well as the General Assembly's House and Senate Environmental Resources and Energy committees. If approved by IRRC and the standing committees, the state's Attorney General's office would conduct a final review.

For more information about the proposed regulations visit www.depweb.state.pa.us and select "Public Participation."

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