Growth of Pennsylvania oil and gas industry leads to new regulatory considerations

October 20, 2014

The oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania has experienced rapid growth in the seven years since the current oil  boom began. Now, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the industry has matured from the land-consolidation stage and is now seeing a rise in new regulations being put in place.

The Marcellus Basin, spreading from Pennsylvania into West Virginia, is responsible for nearly 40 percent of domestic natural gas production in the U.S. While this activity has drastically improved employment prospects in the area and delivered a significant boost to the local economy, the drilling process known as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has continued to create conflict between environmentalist groups and industry stakeholders. 

Now, as operations in the Marcelles Basin mature, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has proposed new rules that could overhaul existing regulations and possibly cause many organization to cease activity until they can comply with the changes. 

According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, the bulk of the newly proposed regulations deal with activity that takes place above ground, largely pertaining to wastewater management and well construction. The proposal also makes distinctions between earlier, shallow wells and the more modern and deep shale wells. These regulations will include new construction practices that have been developed as well as certain safety considerations.

"Those improved well construction practices have really been credited with a significant reduction in groundwater impact," Scott Perry, deputy secretary for the Office of Oil and Gas Management in the Department of Environment Protection, told the source.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has until March 2016 to submit their final recommendations for updated regulation to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission. Already, the agency says it has received over 25,000 comments from concerned citizens and industry stakeholders regarding the draft rules. 

With the amount of attention the issue has received and the possible negative effects of regulations that can stifle production, environmental consultants should be included to ensure that all policymakers have the necessary information to make decisions that accurately reflect the needs of the community.