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Drilling slowdown to leave regulators with $2.9 million deficit

A Lycoming County rig

Tim Lambert / WITF-FM

Right now there are only 18 rigs operating in Pennsylvania. Drilling has slowed significantly as the price of natural gas has plummeted.FM

Pennsylvania is facing a $2.9 million deficit in the fund that supports its oversight of oil and gas wells in the next fiscal year, according to a projection from Governor Tom Wolf’s budget office.
The overall slowdown in drilling means less money is available in fines and fees for the Well Plugging Fund, which supports things like DEP’s well inspections and permit reviews– essentially everything the agency does to ensure oil and gas activity is managed appropriately and safely.
The following fiscal year, the fund faces a $9.8 million deficit. That means the state Department of Environmental Protection can’t fill 24 vacancies it currently has in its oil and gas program.
“We are considering a range of options to maintain solvency of this fund,” says Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan. “But pending that review, new positions will not be filled immediately.”
The issue came up at a recent state budget hearing, where DEP Secretary John Quigley was criticized for not filling the oil and gas jobs. He told lawmakers he was working with the governor’s budget office to find a solution.

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