Gov. Wolf signs bill that rejects conventional drilling regulations
Governor Wolf signed a bill that would scrap the conventional oil and gas regulations, while new rules for Marcellus Shale wells move forward. Wolf also approved a new climate change regulation that lengthens the time lawmakers get to review the administration’s plans for cutting greenhouse gas emissions to comply with Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The new drilling rules have been in the works since lawmakers updated the state’s oil and gas law back in 2012.
Environmentalists criticized Wolf’s decision to scrap the proposed rules for the conventional, more shallow gas wells, which are not necessarily produced with the use of fracking. Wolf’s spokesman Jeff Sheridan told StateImpact last week that the entire package of conventional and unconventional well regulations was in jeopardy unless the administration compromised and tabled the conventional drilling wells. Wolf said in a release that he was “pleased to have reached a bi-partisan agreement with the legislature” to enact the unconventional well regulations.
“As part of the compromise I reached with the legislature,” he said, “my administration will get to work immediately to redraft conventional regulations, and I have directed the Department of Environmental Protection to begin the process.”
That will re-start a process that had taken five years. A new council will be created to advise on conventional regulations. More than half of the committee will be industry representatives.
The new regulations, known as Chapter 78, include updates to the permitting process and will need to be approved by the Attorney General’s office. Drillers would have to identify public resources such as schools and playgrounds. They will also have to identify old or abandoned wells that could be impacted by new drilling. If a water supply is tainted, the driller will have to restore or replace it to federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards, or the pre-drilling conditions, if they were better. The Marcellus Shale industry would also be barred from storing waste in pits, and using brine for dust suppression or de-icing.
Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that Gov. Wolf signed into law Chapter 78 regulations. He in fact signed into law bill SB 279, which eliminates the regulations governing conventional, smaller wells. The unconventional well regulations will now be reviewed by the Attorney General.