State environmental regulators plan to hike fees imposed on shale well operators later this year, although the amount of the increase is still to be determined.
Marcellus Shale well operators currently pay a $5,000 permit application fee to the state Department of Environmental Protection. The agency recently put a notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin saying it is required to review the adequacy of these fees every three years and “the current fee review indicates the need for a fee increase.”
DEP’s oil and gas program is supported entirely by fees, fines, and penalties paid by oil and gas companies. It does not receive any money from the state’s General Fund. In an email department spokesman Neil Shader wrote, “the particulars of the fee package have not been determined at this point.”
In the same notice, DEP said it intends to wait until late next year to introduce a revised package of regulatory updates for conventional oil and gas operators.
The regulations, known as Chapter 78, have been controversial since DEP began working on them in 2011. Last year the DEP implemented updated regulations for Marcellus Shale drillers, but the rules for older, shallower wells were tossed out last summer as part of a state budget-related deal between Governor Tom Wolf and Republican legislators.
Although the conventional industry rules are largely already written–and DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell has previously said he wants to resurrect them quickly—the agency will wait until the third quarter of 2018 to introduce them again.
Shader declined to explain the reason for the delay, saying only that the department began “working with the new Conventional Crude Oil Development Advisory Committee several months ago in order to develop a new regulatory package.”