As the natural gas industry pushes for a standardized drilling ordinance in Pennsylvania, it doesn’t expect the regulations to be easy, just predictable, a pair of executives told an audience in Pittsburgh last Wednesday.

“It’s not to necessarily take control away from anybody. It’s just trying to make things more uniform,” Ray Walker, senior vice president of environment, safety and regulatory compliance for Range Resources Corp., said at Hart Energy’s 2011 DUG (Developing Unconventional Gas) East conference. “What our industry craves is consistency and predictability. We’ve never once, that I know of, asked for it to be easy.”

Pennsylvania is composed of more than 2,000 local governments, from counties to townships to boroughs to cities, and that, Walker said, “causes a lot of grief in the inner workings of an oil and gas company.”

The natural gas industry isn’t shy about this discontent (see NGI, Oct. 10), Walker said. As it fights several high-profile battles locally, the industry wants a statewide standard, and could succeed under various impact fee bills working through the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Walker noted that in neighboring Ohio, “they basically put in place total preemption.” While that might be ideal for the industry, Walker acknowledged that it “may not be the best answer” in Pennsylvania.

Although exploration and production companies are leading the charge for a statewide standard in Pennsylvania, most operators are confined to small regions. Pipeline companies, though, are trying to build permanent installations that can run across multiple counties and through numerous municipalities, noted Ted Wurfel, vice president of environmental, safety and regulatory affairs for Chief Gathering LLC. “We’re not asking that it be made easy, but uniformity does help us plan,” he said.

The industry got its wish when the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) outlined a new approach to aggregating sources of air emissions. That came after years of meetings between the DEP and the industry and carries industry support, according to Wurfel.

The main point of the guidance generally defines “contiguous or adjacent” facilities, one of the guides for aggregation, as being located within a quarter-mile of each other, rather than being merely “interdependent.” That definition makes the process both more predictable for industry, and easier.

Pennsylvania could do even more to improve predictability, Walker said, by creating a statewide plan to increase the use natural gas over dirtier fossil fuels such as coal and oil, thereby lowering the total amount of air emission in Pennsylvania, rather than focusing on the emissions of any single compressor station.

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