Legislators urge approval of drilling regulations

HARRISBURG, March 31 – A group of nearly 20 state House members led by state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, today sent a letter to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission urging approval of regulations that would make gas drilling safer in Pennsylvania.

IRRC, the agency created to review commonwealth agency regulations to ensure they are in the public interest, is scheduled to consider the regulations at its April 21 hearing.

Vitali, Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said the regulations would enhance public resource protections, including those for state parks and forests, playgrounds, schools and public water supplies; provide for pre-drilling review of potential abandoned and operating wells; require water supply restoration standards for operators who degrade a water supply; and enhanced spill reporting and clean-up requirements.

The Performance Standards at Oil and Gas Well Sites regulations were promulgated in accordance with Act 13 of 2012, and have not been updated since 2001, so modernizing them is critical to ensure protection of Pennsylvania’s environment, the group’s letter states.

The drilling industry opposes the regulations and on March 24, the Pennsylvania Independent Petroleum Producers Association filed a suit in Commonwealth Court challenging them.

The House and Senate can stop the regulations by passing a concurrent resolution disapproving them, which must be signed by the governor. If he vetoes, the General Assembly can override the veto by a two-thirds majority.

However, legislators supporting the regulations argue that after two public comment periods, 12 public hearings, two dozen advisory committee meetings and nearly 28,000 stakeholder comments, the issue has been thoroughly vetted and the time has come for the IRRC to adopt them.

A copy of the letter is available by clicking here.