Judge puts sections of new drilling rules on hold
A judge has placed a temporary hold on portions of new Marcellus Shale drilling regulations that took effect last month, in response to a lawsuit from the natural gas industry.
Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson sided with the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a gas trade group, and temporarily enjoined sections of new drilling regulations dealing with public resource protections, monitoring for orphaned and abandoned wells, well site restoration, and standards for water storage impoundments.
Brobson denied the industry’s request to put a hold on sections of the regulations dealing with spill cleanups, onsite waste processing, and a new requirement to file monthly waste reports.
“We’re pleased with the court’s decision to stay unlawful, burdensome, and costly portions of the challenged regulations from going into effect until this matter can be fully decided in the courts,” said MSC president David Spigelmyer in a statement. “Our industry supports fair, consistent and clear regulations that ensure environmental and public safety.”
The group has argued the new drilling rules could amount to an additional $2 million per-well cost, while providing little environmental benefit.
The new regulations represent important standards, says Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Neil Shader.
“The regulations were crafted in accordance with PA law, and represent the result of tens of thousands of comments from residents, industry, and other stakeholders,” Shader says in an email. “DEP will continue to push for protections for drinking water and schoolchildren and ensure areas impacted by drilling activity are restored.”
The Commonwealth Court will next weigh the merits of the case, but it has not released a schedule for when that will occur.