On March 28, 2011, House Bill No. 1211 (Printer’s No. 1321) (“HB 1211”) was referred to the Pennsylvania House Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy. HB 1211 would amend section 205 of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act (58 P.S. § 601.205) to add an arbitrary two mile well location restriction. Under the proposed amendment, “[A] permit for a well intending to produce from an unconventional shale formation shall not be issued by the department unless it is located not less than two miles from the nearest well drilled into an unconventional shale formation. . . The well spacing requirements under this subsection shall not be waived.” HB 1211 defined an unconventional shale formation as a “shale formation that typically produces natural gas through high volume hydraulic fracturing or horizontal well bores,” and includes the Rhinestreet, Burket, Marcellus, Mandata and Utica shale formations and other formations designated by the department (DEP)”.
Rather than impose a strict, arbitrary well spacing requirement, the purpose of the Oil and Gas Act to “permit the optimal development of the oil and gas resources of Pennsylvania . . .” (58 P.S. § 601.102(1)) could be easily served if wells producing from unconventional shale formations were governed by the existing well spacing requirements under Section 407 of the Oil and Gas Conservation Law (58 P.S. § 407), e.g., factors such as the surface topography, a well spacing plan and other available geological and scientific data.