Despite formal disapproval by Pennsylvania House and Senate Committees, the Commonwealth’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission, on April 21, 2016, in a 3-2 decision, approved contentious oil and gas regulations that the Governor’s Office claims will improve protection of water resources, address landowner concerns, enhance transparency and improve data management. The regulations include updates to the well permitting process, requiring drillers to identify public resources (such as schools and playgrounds) that may be impacted by drilling activity and to identify abandoned wells that could be impacted by new drilling. Further, the regulations require drillers to restore or replace impacted water supplies to Federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards. Moreover, the regulations prohibit drillers from storing waste in pits and using brine for roadway dust suppression. Although designed to impact the once-burgeoning Marcellus Shale-related unconventional drilling industry, most of the objections now focus upon the cost of compliance to family-owned, conventional oil and gas well operators. Those objections, and legislative displeasure with the 3-2 decision, are presented in an April 28th article of The Bradford Era.
The Pennsylvania Legislature has about a month to pass a resolution disapproving the regulations that would be presented to the Governor. Anticipating a gubernatorial veto, the Senate and House would be required to override that veto by a two-thirds vote. If no action is taken by the Legislature or a resolution fails, the regulations will take effect following review by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, the Office of General Counsel and the Commonwealth Budget Office.