Representatives from the state’s Marcellus Shale industry are criticizing the way the Wolf administration has handled proposed changes to drilling regulations.
At a meeting of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board (TAB) Friday, industry groups questioned the level of transparency around new draft rules.
Kevin Moody, of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, was among the critics.
“I’m not going to go all ‘Al Pacino’ here, but this whole proceeding is out of order,” he told DEP staff .
Since 2011, the agency has been revising its Chapter 78 regulations, which govern the oil and gas industry. In December 2013, the rules became available for public comment. The agency held nine hearings across the state and received more than 24,000 comments. Shortly after Governor Wolf took office, the DEP made a slew of significant changes– imposing more stringent rules for things like waste, noise, and streams.
Jim Welty is vice president of government affairs for the trade group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
“The MSC submitted extensive and detailed comments, the vast majority of which appear to have been ignored,” he said. “In our view [these regulations] are designed to increase costs and threaten continued development of this industry.”
Moody also questioned why the DEP quickly disbanded its former TAB.
“For an administration that campaigned on transparency on accountability, the purging of former TAB members and the appointment of new ones was shrouded in secrecy,” he said.
“I disagree with the criticism,” said DEP’s Deputy Secretary for Oil and Gas, Scott Perry. “The governor appoints new board members. This is the process. The governor and acting secretary John Quigley have gone far beyond what minimal level of public participation is called for in the law.”
The DEP is planning to release its newly revised rules for a 30-day public comment period on April 4th but will not hold any more hearings.
The agency must finish the regulations by March 2016, or risk starting all over again. Perry says they don’t plan to hold more hearings or extend the comment period beyond 30 days in order to make that deadline. He says the agency also added four non-voting TAB members in order to get a broader array of interests– including representatives from academia and the environmental community.