Marcellus Shale Reporting Legislation Awaiting Governor's Signature; Pennsylvania PUC to Hold Hearings on Pipeline Jurisdiction; EPA to Commence Fracking Study
The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 297 to amend the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act to impose new well reporting requirements on natural gas drilling operators in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale. The legislation, now awaiting Governor Rendell's signature, would require operators to provide well production information to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection ("PADEP") which would then be publicly available through the PADEP website within six months. Previously, such information remained confidential and could not be made publicly available until five years after submission. The first reports must be produced to PADEP no later than August 15, 2010 and the on a semi-annual basis on February 15 and August 15 of each subsequent year. The legislation indicates that the information can be used by the Commonwealth in enforcement proceedings.
In other Marcellus Shale developments, the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission ("PUC") announced it will hold special hearings in April to address safety issues related to Marcellus Shale drilling operations, including the scope of PUC jurisdiction over Shale-produced natural gas transported via pipeline. The hearings will commence in Harrisburg on April 22, 2010. In addition, the PUC indicated that it has substantially increased transportation enforcement activities in conjunction with the Pennsylvania State Police in five Pennsylvania counties. The enhanced enforcement results from complaints regarding well drillers and tanker trucks transporting sand, water and stone that allegedly were not certified by the PUC.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") also indicated that it will undertake a comprehensive research study to assess potential adverse environmental and health impacts related to hydraulic fracturing.