How good do oil and gas regulations have to be? According to the panel that recently reviewed Pennsylvania’s oil and gas program, they just have to be good enough to meet guidelines established by a nonprofit organization called the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations, (STRONGER).
TU was one of two conservation organizations in the six-person review panel of Pennsylvania oil and gas regulations. The panel's task was to compare Pennsylvania’s rules to those covered in the STRONGER guidelines. The Pennsylvania review panel’s report was released late last month.
An Associated Press article quotes TU's Eastern water project director, Katy Dunlap.
Dunlap says that credit needs to be given where it is due. She points out that over the past four years, Pennsylvania has made strides toward improving its regulations. Policies have been introduced to limit total dissolved solids from entering streams and to strengthen casing and cementing requirements for gas wells. Staff levels in the state’s Oil and Gas program have more than tripled in the past four years to accommodate unconventional shale gas drilling. And, she says, Pennsylvania has modified the way it evaluates a “project” for erosion and sediment control activities related to gas drilling and now nearly every Pennsylvania gas well pad is required to obtain an erosion and sediment control permit. This, she says, is critical because sedimentation can have at least 15 different direct negative effects on trout and salmon, ranging from stress, altered behavior, reductions in growth and mortality.
Dunlap says there is room for improvement in the way that Pennsylvania regulates drilling. The STRONGER report highlights a few reccomendations, including standardizing data for tracking violations and enforcement actions; defining depth of “fresh groundwater”and creating guidance for pre-drill water sampling.
More importantly, she says, Pennsylvania needs to create a consistent state-wide permitting system for water withdrawals to make sure that is enough water in stream to support native and wild trout.