Pennsylvania should implement tougher gas drilling regulations

The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) will soon consider rules to make gas drilling safer in Pennsylvania. IRRC should approve these rules and the Pennsylvania General Assembly should allow them to become law.

On April 21st, IRRC will consider regulations recently submitted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP’s Performance Standards at Oil and Gas Well Sites will provide a much- needed strengthening of Pennsylvania’s oil and gas regulatory program. 

These regulations would among other things require drillers to:  

  • restore water supplies they have degraded to Safe Drinking Water Act standards
  • refrain from using temporary pits to store drill cuttings and waste fluids
  • comply with more stringent spill reporting and cleanup standards
  • provide secondary containment measures around storage vessels, trucks and drill rigs
  • provide more security to prevent vandalism of tanks

These are commonsense provisions which will better protect public health and the environment while allowing the drilling industry conduct its business.

The regulations, promulgated pursuant to Act 13 of 2012, have been thoroughly vetted. They have been subject to 12 public hearings and nearly 28,000 public comments.

The regulations are long overdue. Rules for surface activities associated with oil and gas wells have not been updated since 2001.

Unfortunately, these regulations have been opposed by some in the drilling industry and the Pennsylvania legislature. On March 24, the Pennsylvania Independent Petroleum Producers Association filed a suit in Commonwealth Court challenging the regulations.  The legislature attempted to block the portion of these regulations relating to conventional drilling by inserting a provisions in the Fiscal Code. Fortunately, Governor Wolf vetoed this bill.

The House and Senate can still stop these regulations by passing a concurrent disapproval resolution.

Protection of public health and the environment require that these regulations be implemented as soon as possible.

State Representative Greg Vitali represents the 166th Legislative district of Pennsylvania which includes parts of Delaware and Montgomery Counties.  He is Democratic Chairman of the House Environmental Resource end Energy Committee.