The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) is working to more consistently enforce natural gas drilling regulations in various regions of the state, PADEP Secretary Mike Krancer said.
“From my first days on the job, I’ve repeatedly heard that PADEP’s enforcement of our oil and gas oversight was often inconsistent from region to region,” Krancer said. “One of Governor Corbett’s promises was to see that PADEP’s programs are administered fairly and uniformly, and that’s what we’re striving to achieve.”
Krancer established a team of PADEP staff members from Harrisburg and the regional offices that regulate oil and gas activity—Southwest, Northwest and North-central—to study the number and types of violations reported, how violations were recorded and reported, and enforcement actions. The team worked to identify any inconsistencies and developed plans to enhance consistency.
“Our field staff does great work, but the review confirmed that there were inconsistencies among our regions in how PADEP applied regulations and enforcement, and with how the violations were reported,” Krancer said. “For example, we learned inspectors and water quality specialists in three regions were using three different inspection forms, resulting in inconsistent enforcement of our regulations.”
As a result of the review, PADEP’s Office of Oil and Gas Management implemented a more detailed electronic inspection form for use in all three regions, and is working to develop additional training for inspectors and water quality specialists.
“With these changes, we should now be able to more swiftly close out Notices of Violation as having been corrected or, as necessary, elevate them to a higher enforcement level,” Krancer said. “Governor Corbett and I believe that robust and consistent oversight is important. This effort will ensure that we have both.”
Work has begun to simplify the electronic data entry system used for violations, known as eFACTS, to compile a field manual for staff, and to provide staff with more standardized equipment. Plans are in the works to increase the number of compliance staff in each region’s Office of Oil and Gas Management and to provide industry with additional compliance assistance information.
For more information and to view the report, visit the PADEP website and click on “Oil and Gas” on the left-hand side of the page.
States where hydraulic fracturing is taking place are properly overseeing the activity and do not need federal interference, PADEP Secretary Mike Krancer told members of Congress on November 16.
Krancer testified yesterday before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, of which Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Jason Altmire (D-PA) are members. The group is part of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and called the hearing to focus on states’ wastewater handling and regulations.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracing, is a process used in oil and natural gas drilling that injects a mixture of sand and water into the cracks of rock formations to create fissures that allow more oil and gas to be extracted.
“It is total fiction that sewage treatment plants are discharging these ‘terrible’ waste products into the waterways,” Krancer said. “The question here is whether the states are capable, and the states are doing a good job.”
Because each state has unique geography, topography and geology, a federal “one-size-fits-all” approach to regulation would be “unwise, duplicative and unnecessary,” Krancer testified.
“We have to be guided by facts and science — not fiction and emotion,” Krancer said, adding that the latter guide much of the criticism of natural gas drilling.
He reminded the committee that there have been more than 1.2 million wells fraced across the nation over the last 60 years, and that neither the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) nor state regulatory agencies have seen any documented cases of fracing causing contamination of drinking water supplies.
Krancer credited Pennsylvania’s aggressive, robust regulatory program and oversight of natural gas activities, including the administration’s April 2011 call to drillers to stop delivering shale gas production wastewater to exempted treatment facilities, with protecting Pennsylvania’s surface and groundwater.
“The shale gas here is abundant, available, domestic, clean and cheap, and is already transforming our economy by creating tens of thousands of jobs and lower energy prices,” Krancer said. “And that is just the beginning.”
For more information and to view Krancer’s testimony, visit the PADEP website.
The PADEP announced the preliminary process it will use for authorizing the use of acid mine drainage water for oil and gas operations, including Marcellus Shale wells.
“Acid mine drainage impairs more than 5,000 miles of streams in our state, making it ideal for operators to take the drainage out of our waterways and put it to use for hydraulic fracturing,” PADEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. “As natural gas extraction does not require drinking quality water, this represents a real win-win that can address two water challenges at once.”
Each day, more than 300 million gallons of acid mine drainage discharges into state waterways from sites in the anthracite and bituminous coal regions. The drainage impairs more miles of rivers and streams than any other source of pollution.
Hydraulic fracturing is a process that injects a mixture of sand and water into the cracks of rock formations to create fissures that allow more oil and gas to be extracted. Hydro-fracturing a typical Marcellus Shale well requires between five million and eight million gallons of water. As freshwater is not required for fracturing operations, acid mine drainage can present a safe and viable alternative.
The hydraulic fracturing of Marcellus Shale wells takes place deep underground, 5,000 to 8,000 feet below groundwater tables. This use of acid mine drainage presents minimal risk to groundwater, as there is no evidence that groundwater in Pennsylvania has been impacted by hydraulic fracturing.
PADEP completed a preliminary position paper that outlines how requests to use acid mine drainage water for hydraulic fracturing will be reviewed. Operators making such requests will work with PADEP program staff to identify potential sources of water from acid mine drainage sites. PADEP will then determine the necessary permits and storage and treatment requirements on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, oil and gas companies may provide financial support to acid mine drainage trust funds, ensuring that treatment continues long after there is a need for the water in hydraulic fracturing.
Over the next several months, PADEP will host input sessions to gather comments from members of environmental groups and industry. The process will be revised and improved as needed until the department publishes a final position paper on the issue in February 2012. For more information and to view the position paper, visit the PADEP website or call 717.787.5015.
The PADEP alerted companies involved in unconventional natural gas development across Pennsylvania that they must submit to the agency data on their facilities’ air emissions for 2011. The reports are due March 1, 2012.
“The use of natural gas for fuel will have very beneficial impacts on air quality, and we want to ensure we are protecting the quality of Pennsylvania’s air as we access and bring to market this abundant, domestic fuel source,” PADEP Secretary Mike Krancer said.
The agency is initially asking 99 operators identified as being involved in natural gas development, production, transmission, processing and related activities to respond with the necessary data.
PADEP submits emissions inventories to the USEPA every three years. The next comprehensive inventory, to be submitted by Dec. 31, 2012, will include point sources, such as refineries and manufacturing plants; area sources, such as auto body shops, dry cleaners and gas stations; on-road and non-road mobile sources; and naturally occurring biogenic sources, like oak, pine and maple trees, which all produce a naturally occurring volatile organic compound.
The 2012 submittal will be PADEP’s first inventory that includes emissions data for Marcellus Shale natural gas production and processing operations.
“Emissions inventories like this are important tools that give us a metric to help ensure that we are maintaining air standards across the board,” Krancer said. “We have seen some significant improvements in air quality in Pennsylvania recently and we will keep that up.”
He noted that PADEP’s short-term ambient air sampling, conducted in 2010 in Bradford, Greene, Susquehanna, Tioga and Washington counties, did not identify any emission levels that would constitute a public health concern. Long-term monitoring studies will begin in 2012, and the emissions data PADEP is starting to collect now will aid in the selection of several long-term monitoring sites.
The sources and activities at natural gas operations that PADEP has identified as subject to the emissions reporting requirements include compressor stations; dehydration units; drill rigs; fugitives, such as connectors, flanges, pump lines, pump seals and valves; heaters; pneumatic controllers and pumps; stationary engines; tanks, pressurized vessels and impoundments; venting and blow down systems; well heads and well completions.
PADEP is asking operators for emissions data for carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter of a certain size, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and total hazardous air pollutants, among others.
For more information, visit the PADEP website and click on the Air Emissions Inventory button.