The Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB) has approved, by a 14-1 vote, a proposed set of stringent rules regarding how natural gas wells are constructed.

The proposed well cementing and casing requirements 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 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."

The board 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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