With the latest session underway, the Pennsylvania General Assembly may want to take a Tums for all that is on its plate.
Gas — as in methane gas and drilling regulations — will be one of the topics digested during the legislative year. It’s a discussion that will affect Lawrence County gas and oil drilling interests.
Although early in the stages, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is considering tightening regulations involving gas and oil wells. One of the targets is further restrictions on methane gas, which when released into the atmosphere before it is burned off traps heat. The DEP started discussions on the issue last month at an air quality technical advisory committee meeting.
The DEP is pursuing an emissions reduction of 95 percent on existing industry equipment, such compressors, pneumatic pumps and storage tanks. The move runs counter to the federal EPA’s decision to withdraw guidelines that would assist states in determining emission practices. Any action the assembly takes would not go into effect for two years.
Gas drillers, represented by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, oppose the move. They want Pennsylvania to stay in step with federal regulations.
“We do have initial concerns about potential costs as well as DEP’s timing given ongoing federal regulatory activity associated with existing source emissions,” the coalition’s president David Spigelmyer said. “Rather than creating more regulatory uncertainty, it would be prudent for DEP to delay any regulatory proposals until federal rules are finalized.”
Oil and gas wells dot the county’s northern landscape. The state DEP reported there are approximately 240 active wells throughout the county, per its well inventory report. Active wells are not necessarily producing or drilled wells but have permits issued for them.
Wilmington Township features the most sites in the county with 92. Neighboring townships round out the top six: Pulaski (51), Hickory (24), Plain Grove (18), Mahoning (15) and Washington (12). Approximately 60 active county wells are tied to horizontal drilling.
The DEP also noted 123 wells have been proposed for the county but never materialized, while 91 have been plugged and 74 were abandoned. Four years ago, the state issued 91 permits in the county for drilling activities. In 2015, that number dropped to 44. Last year, a scant six permits were issued.
The state DEP’s action to attack methane gas emissions in relationship to drilling is wise but should be tempered. We feel that an action plan — not legislation — should be in place while the federal role is better defined.