Sunday, February 20, 2011

No Super Bowl Tickets

The Philadelphia Inquirer today reports today that I declined an offer by Consol to attend the 2009 Super Bowl.  The piece quotes me as saying that I did not go because it would have been the wrong thing to do and that I supported changing Pennsylvania law to prohibit these trips.  All true.

The piece then says that I "increased" the state employees regulating the industry.  True but incomplete.  The article also says that I "strengthened" drilling regulations.  Also true but incomplete. 

Concerning staffing, Governor Rendell, DEP, and I more than doubled the gas drilling oversight staff.  No other state boosted its regulatory staff anywhere near that level to deal with the shale drilling boom.  In fact most states did no hiring.  Here are the details.

When I became secretary on September 2nd, 2008, DEP had 88 employees regulating the industry. Governor Rendell and I agreed that was inadequate so we hired in both 2009 and 2010.  By January 2011 when I left office, DEP had 202 employees full time regulating the industry.

DEP regulators also actively enforced rules, writing 1400 violations to the industry from January 1, 2008 to June 30, 2010.  Orders were issued requiring drilling companies to pay to clean up spills and leaks, to stop drilling for months, to stop fracking, and to pay twice the market value of homes where gas migrated to private water wells from gas wells.

To pay for this substantial increase in enforcement and staff at a time of collapsing state revenues, the fee charged for a Marcellus drilling permit was raised typically from $5,000 to $10,000 from a ridiculous $100 that had been set in 1984 and never raised.  Emergency rulemaking authority was used to raise quickly the fee.  All fee income was used to hire staff, open new DEP gas drilling offices in Williamsport  and Scranton and to equip fully employees.

After I became secretary, I led a comprehensive review of all drilling regulations and many rules protecting our waters to strengthen across the board.  Four major changes were made.

First drillers were required to file a water withdrawal plan at the time of their application to drill that detailed where the water came from that would be used in the drilling process. A protective standard for streams was used in reviewing proposed stream withdrawals. If water would be withdrawn from a stream, the stream was assumed to be in a drought condition and only if the withdrawal would not damage a stream in a drought condition was the withdrawal approved.

Second, a new rule went into effect in August 2010 that required any new plants treating drilling wastewater or existing plants that expanded their drilling wastewater discharges to treat for total dissolved solids to the safe drinking water standard if they were going to discharge drilling wastewater to a stream.  Drilling wastewater untreated for TDS has been discharged to streams for decades.  The volumes expected as a result of Marcellus required a major change and the regulations were greatly strengthened. 

The drilling industry responded to this rule by innovating and developing new technology to reuse or recyle drilling waste water for drilling more wells.  At least 70% of all drilling wastewater is now reused by the drilling industry.

Third, in november 2010 a new rule became effective that required a 150 foot buffer from development for the 22,000 miles of High Quality streams, approximately one-quarter of all streams in Pennsylvania.  Buffers provide the single greatest protection for streams. Pennsylvania's buffer rule is among the strongest in the nation. 

Fourth, the rules governing the design, construction, materials used, disclosure of chemicals, monitoring and testing of gas wells were strengthened across the board. Pennsylvania's rules are state of the art.  The rule became effective on February 5th, 2011.

In summary, on my watch, DEP more than doubled the gas oversight staff, raised for the first time and substantially the fee to drill to pay for staff, actively enforced our rules, and issued 4 critical sets of policies and rules to protect our waters and increase drilling safety. 

Also, on my watch, the Marcellus industry drilled 2500 wells and began producing large amounts of natural gas.  America's shale gas revolution in the Marcellus and other formations creates huge environmental opportunities too from using less coal and oil as well as cutting sharply the heating bills to the 51% of consumers using gas to get through winters.

1 comment:

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