Environmental Protection

Pennsylvania's Regulatory Program for Hydraulic Fracturing Gets Good Marks

A targeted review of the Pennsylvania program regulating the hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells (pdf) has been completed by a multi-stakeholder group, which has concluded that the program is, overall, well-managed, professional, and meeting its program objectives.

The review was conducted by a three-person team appointed by STRONGER, Inc., a non-profit organization that conducts voluntary state reviews of oil and natural gas environmental regulations. The review team, appointed in July 2010, consisted of three members and four observers representing environmental groups, state regulators, the oil and gas industry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Twenty-three additional people attended the review.

“The review team found that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has a well-managed program,” said Lori Wrotenbery, who served as chair of the review team. “In fact, we believe several aspects of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and its operations merit special recognition.”

The Pennsylvania hydraulic fracturing regulatory program was singled out for its operations in the areas of comprehensive water planning; baseline water sampling and water studies; Prevention, Preparedness and Contingency planning; waste identification, tracking and reporting; and increasing staffing levels.

The review team made recommendations to DEP baseline surveys, casing and cementing plans, availability of chemical information, notification of hydraulic fracturing operations, and pit construction.

The review team members, in addition to Wrotenbery, director of the Oil and Gas Conservation Division of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, were Wilma Subra, an environmental scientist from Louisiana; and Jim Collins, a petroleum engineer representing the Independent Petroleum Association of America. Dave Rectenwald of the. EPA Office of Solid Waste, Brad Field, director of the Division of Mineral Resources of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Steve Rhoads of East Resources, and Tom Au, Conservation chair of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club participated as observers.

STRONGER is an acronym for State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations. The group was formed in 1999 to reinvigorate and carry forward the state review process begun cooperatively in 1988 by EPA and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. The mission of STRONGER is to educate and provide services for the continuous improvement of regulatory programs and industry practices in order to enhance human health and the environment. The organization is a non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization that shares innovative techniques and environmental protection strategies and identifies opportunities for program improvement. The state review process is a non-regulatory program and relies on states to volunteer for reviews.

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