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PA Environmental Council Calls for Fracking Regulations

Jul 13, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) is pressing for legislative and regulatory changes that it says would help prevent accidents and environmental damage at hydraulic fracturing gas drilling operations in the state. The push comes the same day that Pennsylvania regulators released a consultant’s findings of an investigation of a well blowout that occurred last month in the state’s rural Clearfield County.

In a report titled “Developing the Marcellus Shale,” the PEC calls for the creation of a Marcellus Shale Development Task Force that would identify best practices in the industry and apply them to Marcellus Shale gas operations in Pennsylvania. The Council also wants the legislature to require that any severance tax revenues be specifically directed to the management of this industry, its environmental impacts and its regulatory enforcement.

The state’s legislature is expected to vote on such a tax by October 1.

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has just released its report on the Clearfield County blowout. That accident occurred June 3 and 4 at a well site operated by Houston-based EOG Resources Inc. about 100 miles north of Pittsburgh. At the time, a service rig operated by a contractor was in the final stages of completing the well and bringing it into production. The EOG well was one of four located on the same drilling pad at a hunting club in Lawrence Township, near Moshannon State Forest. No one was injured in the Pennsylvania blowout, but 35,000 gallons of drilling fluids were released before it was contained the following afternoon.

According to the report, rig workers’ failure to use enough pressure-control devices led to the blowout. According to the Associated Press, the report also criticizes the drilling crew’s lack of training and testing of equipment.

Consultant John Vittitow, who compiled the report, was hired by the DEP to investigate the incident.

There are about 1,500 Marcellus Shale gas wells in Pennsylvania currently and industry officials predict an additional 35,000 to 50,000 by 2030. The Marcellus Shale region is a formation rich in natural gas that lies beneath parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and Maryland.

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