Pennsylvania DEP To Create Separate Boards For Shale, Conventional Drilling

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By Laura Legere

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is replacing all of the members of its oil and gas advisory board to give it a greater focus on shale drilling, while creating a second board to advise the agency about regulations affecting the traditional drilling industry.

The change comes at a time when the state’s rules for oil and gas surface operations are undergoing a major revision.

The new board, called the Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee, will be made up of seven members: three conventional oil and gas operators, three members appointed by the DEP secretary and one member appointed by the DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council.

The DEP is also seeking new members for the Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board, which was created in 1984 and includes engineers and geologists who represent the drilling industry, the coal mining industry and the public. Current members of the five-person board have served for between seven and 26 years.

The shifting makeup of the boards comes just weeks before the technical advisory board is set to review the newest draft of a wide-ranging revision to the state’s oil and gas regulations. A draft of the final rules, which will reflect the DEP’s responses to thousands of public comments submitted on the proposals, is scheduled to be discussed on March 5.

The creation of a new committee also reflects a push by traditional drillers and the Legislature to more clearly separate rules for the conventional industry — with its generally smaller operations and shallower wells — from the larger-scale operations of the unconventional industry targeting the Marcellus and Utica shales.

Acting DEP Secretary John Quigley said the committee changes will enhance participation and transparency in the regulatory process.

“We want to make sure that our stakeholders — and that includes the regulated community, affected municipalities and environmental interests — are represented in a focused way for both conventional and unconventional development,” Mr. Quigley said.

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