On Monday, March 9, 2015, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) released draft revisions of the Environmental Protection Performance Standards at Oil and Gas Well Sites (“Chapter 78”). These changes increase the requirements put on operators in regards to steps taken before drilling and wastewater impoundment permitting. They also expand upon current review procedures by state regulators and standards for noise and notification systems. The revisions to Chapter 78 include the following six major changes:
- 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 three 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 of reporting.
These proposed revisions will be discussed at the upcoming meetings of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board and the Pennsylvania Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee in late March. After that, they will then be opened for public comment starting April 4, 2015, through May 4, 2015. To comment on these draft revisions, visit the DEP website at http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/Public_Comments/21508