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Revised Rulemaking Proposal for Environmental Protection Performance Standards at Oil and Gas Well Sites

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced the latest draft revisions of the Environmental Protection Performance Standards at Oil and Gas Well Sites, continuing DEP’s record of modernizing and strengthening the environmental controls employed by this industry to assure the protection of public safety.

“These proposed revisions focus on the need to protect public safety and the environment while enabling drilling to proceed,” said Acting DEP Secretary John Quigley.

The proposed amendments to Chapter 78 address surface activities at oil and gas well sites, and center on five core areas. The regulation amendments are proposed to:
• Improve protection of water resources,
• Add public resources considerations,
• Protect public safety,
• Address landowner concerns, and
• Enhance transparency and improve data management.

(Oil and Gas Well Standards, continued) “These areas reflect the emphasis of the comments we received,” Quigley said. “We received more than 24,000 comments, and want to be deliberate and transparent as we seek continued input on the proposed revisions from our advisory committees and the public.”

The specific proposed changes would:
• Require operators to demonstrate that streams and wetlands will be protected if the edge of the well pad is within 100 feet of the resource,
• Require centralized wastewater impoundments to be permitted through more appropriate Residual Waste Regulations (with existing impoundments upgraded or closed within 3 years of the effective date),
• Expand the review of impacts that operators must conduct to include public resources, such as schools, playgrounds and approved wellhead protection areas,
• Require operators to identify active, inactive, orphan and abandoned wells and submit a plan report to DEP at least 30 days prior to drilling,
• Create standards for noise control and mitigation, and
• Modernize notification and report submission to improve efficiency and ease reporting.

The proposed amendments will be discussed at the upcoming meetings of the Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board (TAB) and Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee (COGAC), which is in formation, in late March.

Following these advisory committee meetings, the proposed amendments will be opened for a 30-day public comment period April 4, 2015.

The proposed amendments were first opened for public comment on December 14, 2013. Throughout the 90-day comment period, the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) held nine public hearings. The rulemaking received comments from more than 24,000 commentators.

The draft regulations include separate regulatory chapters to differentiate the unique characteristics of conventional and unconventional well development. With the passage of Act 126 in 2014, the General Assembly explicitly acknowledged the distinction between these two very different industries, and directed DEP to draft separate regulations. Accordingly, the revisions include Chapter 78 for conventional wells, and Chapter 78a for unconventional wells.

TAB will discuss Chapter 78a (unconventional) at 10 AM on March 20. COGAC will discuss Chapter 78 (conventional) at 10 AM on March 26. Both meetings are open to the public and will be in Room 105, Rachel Carson State Office Building, 400 Market St., Harrisburg. Those who cannot attend in person may tune in via webinar. To participate in the webinar, pre-registration is required at least 30 minutes prior to the start of each session. To register, visit and click on the “Webinar” button on the home page.

For more information, or to view the rulemaking, visit and click the “Chapter 78” button.