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DEP appeals court's hold on sections of new drilling rules

DEP is appealing a court block on new rules that govern unconventional natural gas facilities such as this gathering line in Tiadaghton State Forest.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Natural gas gathering lines in the Tiadaghton State Forest. DEP is appealing a judge's decision to temporarily block sections of new rules governing unconventional natural gas development.

Pennsylvania is appealing a court ruling that temporarily blocked sections of new gas drilling regulations, saying they are “commonsense” rules designed to protect the public and took years to develop with the help of the industry.
The Department of Environmental Protection filed the appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday after a Commonwealth Court judge last month put a hold on some parts of the Chapter 78a regulations on unconventional natural gas development.
The DEP is urging the state’s highest court to allow implementation of regulations governing public resource protections, monitoring for orphaned and abandoned wells, well-site restoration, and standards for water storage impoundments.
Those sections were put on hold by Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson last month following a lawsuit from the gas industry’s trade group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which argued in its first-ever suit against the state that the rules are onerous, costly, and offer little environmental benefit.
But Brobson let stand other sections of the rules dealing with spill cleanups, onsite waste processing, and a new requirement to file monthly waste reports. The rules, which took effect in October, are the first revision of Pennsylvania’s oil and gas regulations since the shale boom began in the mid-2000s.
In a statement accompanying its appeal, the DEP’s Acting Secretary, Patrick McDonnell, said the rules are intended to protect public facilities including schools and playgrounds, and should be allowed to stand.
“These commonsense regulations were the result of five years of public participation, including dozens of meetings with natural gas industry leaders and trade groups, as well as nearly 25,000 Pennsylvanians who made their voices heard by providing public comments,” McDonnell said.

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