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Thursday, December 9, 2010

New DRBC Proposed Regulations Will Help Protect From Gas Drilling

DEP Comments on DRBC’s Release of Proposed Natural Gas Drilling Regulations

Secretary Hanger Says Rules Will Complement PA’s Unprecedented Improvements to Industry Oversight

HARRISBURG -- Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger responded to a move by the Delaware River Basin Commission today to release proposed regulations for public comment that would govern water withdrawals for natural gas drilling throughout the watershed, as well as how those operations develop wells and manage wastewater.

“The DRBC’s action represents a good first step that is necessary to move this process forward,” said Hanger. “It’s important to note that these are proposed rules and that they are now open for public comment. It’s time for the public to have their say on these matters.

“Changes may still be made before we reach a final product that is clear and enforceable. Once the comments have been addressed and changes made, the rules will be brought back to the commission for a full vote. “

DRBC’s proposed regulatory package, available at www.drbc.net, establishes requirements to protect the basin’s surface and groundwater resources from activities associated with building and operating natural gas wells.

The commission intends to hold three public hearings during the 90-day comment period to receive oral testimony on the proposed rulemaking. Details of those hearings and instructions for submitting comments via other means, can be found at www.drbc.net, as well.

Secretary Hanger added that, once finalized, DRBC’s rule will complement the many measures DEP has implemented to strengthen oversight of natural gas development in Pennsylvania. In the past two years, the commonwealth has more than doubled the number of DEP staff regulating the industry to 202 employees as of today.

The department has also advanced a number of new state-specific regulatory requirements. A new regulation enacted in July 2010 requires drilling companies to treat drilling wastewater to the safe drinking water standard for Total Dissolved Solids, or TDS. TDS include chlorides and sulfates, which affect the taste and odor of drinking water and, in high concentrations, can damage or destroy aquatic life. The new regulation ensures the state’s streams do not exceed the safe drinking water standard of 500 milligrams per liter.

The TDS rule and another new regulation that mandates a 150-foot buffer for the 20,000 miles of Pennsylvania streams that are the state’s most pristine and highest quality provide unprecedented protection for the commonwealth’s waters.

In November 2010, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission unanimously approved tough new regulations that require best well design and construction practices, including comprehensive measures to prevent instances of gas migration, which can contaminate water supplies or cause health and safety concerns in homes.

For more information on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us.

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