Energy. Environment. Economy.

Pa. DEP reviewing thousands of comments on overhaul of drilling regulations

The DEP is wading through thousands of public comments on a proposed overhaul of Pennsylvania's regulations for oil and gas drilling.

Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

The DEP is wading through thousands of public comments on a proposed overhaul of Pennsylvania's regulations for oil and gas drilling.

Pennsylvania environmental regulators are wading through more than 25,000 public comments on a proposed overhaul of the state’s oil and gas regulations.

The Department of Environmental Protection says those comments could represent as many as 5,000 different suggestions for changes from the industry, environmental groups, and Pennsylvania citizens. The regulations would update Chapter 78 of the state code and change how the industry operates above ground. 

Members of the DEP’s Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Commission heard an overview of the responses at a meeting Thursday in Harrisburg.

“The range of comments we got on these issues, I’ve never seen anything like it in my 21 years in the department working on any regulation,” said Kurt Klapkowski, DEP’s director of Oil and Gas Planning and Program Management.

Klapkowski noted “there is no formula” for how the agency will incorporate these comments into the next draft of the rules.

Water quality and waste management were among the chief issues the agency received comments on, and where opinions between environmental interests and the industry were most divided.

For example, environmental groups suggested an outright ban on any open pits for storing wastes and production fluids.

“We got thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of comments on that,” Klapkowski said.

Many environmentalists also requested that operators be required to restore local water supplies to meet standards of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, regardless of whether the water quality did or did not meet those standards before drilling.

Industry groups and operators told the DEP they should not be responsible for restoring water supplies that were not impacted by their activities.

Some comments, Klapkowski said, were outside the scope of the current proposal. For instance, the DEP received numerous requests to formally ban drilling on state or federal lands through regulation.

Other comments are sending the agency back to the drawing board.

Conventional or shallow drillers said many of the proposed regulations are unnecessary and too expensive. The DEP heard from several unconventional operators and their trade groups who said that the agency’s analysis of the financial burden for their industry was inaccurate.

“We need to do our homework on that,” Klapkowski said.

On Tuesday, Senate and House committees each approved a measure to require the agency to create separate regulations for shallow and deep, horizontal drillers.

Scott Perry, DEP’s deputy secretary for Oil and Gas Management, said the current regulations already differentiate between conventional and unconventional operators.

However, if the bill passes, Perry said the agency may have to start the whole rulemaking process over.

“It would not be about lesser environmental performance standards, but simply a bifurcation of the rule,” he said. “So we would still continue to hold the conventional industry to the same kind of high standards that we expect of any industry operating in Pennsylvania.”

The DEP expects to submit the final draft rule to the Technical Advisory Commission this fall. The rules could go into effect in the spring of 2016.


  • Jack Wolf

    I submitted comments, but they were not addressed here. It will be interesting to see if they respond.

  • prothopectore

    Regulatory Capture

    Regulatory Capture is a form of political corruption
    that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest,
    instead advances the commercial or special concerns of interest groups that
    dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory
    capture is a form of government failure; it creates an opening for firms to
    behave in ways injurious to the public (e.g., producing negative
    externalities). The agencies are called “captured agencies”.

    The DEP is what is known as a “captured

    The politicians in Harrisburg make the scientific
    decisions based on profit motives.

  • prothopectore

    Touted hydraulic fracturing uses between 1.2 and 3.5 million US gallons (4.5 and 13 Ml) of water per well, with large projects using up to 5 million US gallons (19 Ml). Additional water is used when wells are refractured; this may be done several times. Air, water and food are the most inelastic of lifes demands.

    there are already over 200,000 lost and abandoned gas and oil wells in Pennsylvania from the last drilling boom.

    the casings don’t / wont last forever. this is in terms of geologic time scales that were messin’ with.

    back in 1997 we had an earthquake. 1/3 of our towns water wells went dry. nobody can predict what the ground will do.

    fracking will cost an INFINITE amount on money to clean up after we realize we’ve screwed ourselves.

    if leaks from all the abandoned wells in Pennsylvania are added up, the leaks could account for between 4 percent and 13 percent of human-caused methane emissions in the state.

  • Victoria Switzer

    those “high standards” that Scott Perry speaks of? They do not pertain to the gas industry and he knows it. In fact, John Hanger left and Scott Perry remained….enough said. I pray that when Corbett is gone and a new governor is in place that DEP will have a complete overhall…Wolf chases the fox from the henhouse? I love wolves.

    • Victoria Switzer


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