Gas Drilling: Marcellus Shale Report

Thursday, July 28, 2011 @ 02:07 PM gHale

The first step toward developing a comprehensive and strategic plan for responsible natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania is now out in report form.

The unanimously-adopted report by the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission contains 96 policy recommendations that include tougher regulations for drilling, doubling fines for violations, creating jobs in related industries and promoting the use of natural gas vehicles.

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“Today, Pennsylvania is taking an important, first step toward creating tens of thousands of jobs and leading the nation toward energy independence and doing so in an environmentally responsible way,” said Pennsylvania Lt. Governor Jim Cawley.

Some of the key recommendations the panel made include:
• Posting more information online for the public.
• Tougher civil and criminal penalties for violators.
• Assisting PA companies to do business with natural gas industry.
• Training Pennsylvanians to work in the industry.
• Developing “Green Corridors” for vehicles powered by natural gas.

“This commission brought the industry, environmental groups and local government leaders together to the same table where we methodically and publicly worked out these comprehensive recommendations,” Cawley said.

Part of the report calls for stronger drilling regulations.
These regulations call for:
• Increasing bonding amounts from $2,500 to $10,000 and more for deeper wells.
• Up to $250,000 for blanket bonds.
• Triple well setback distance from streams, ponds, and other bodies of water from 100 to 300 feet.
• Increasing setback distances from private water wells to 500 feet from 200 and to 1,000 feet for public water systems.
• Expanding the operator’s presumed liability for impairing water quality from 1,000 ft to 2,500 feet from a well, and extends the duration of presumed liability from 6 months to 12 months.
• Requires minimum 24-hour notification before commencing certain well site activities.
• Post critical information online, including violations, penalties and remedial actions.
• Expand public disclosure and information through enhanced well production and completion reporting.

Governor Tom Corbett formed the 30-member commission in March, giving them 120 days to develop recommendations on all aspects of natural gas drilling. The commission held 21 public meetings, heard 60 expert presentations and reviewed more than 650 emails and letters from the public.

Click here to see a copy of the report.

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