DEP opens public comment period on proposed regulations

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has opened a 60-day public comment period for proposed regulations to oil and gas activities.

Gov. Tom Corbett signed the 2012 Oil and Gas Act, which revised Pennsylvania’s oil and gas laws, to address the growing unconventional well development of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.

The law, known as Act 13, was meant to ensure the “safe and responsible development oil and gas resources, and it included many new environmental safeguards,” said a DEP spokesperson.

Act 13 also called for the Environmental Quality Board a 20-member independent board chaired DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo to propose the department’s regulations and consider petitions to change the oil and gas regulations.

The EQB will host seven public hearings across Pennsylvania. The closest to Warren County will be held in Crawford County at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at Meadville Area Senior High School Auditorium, 930 North Street.

“Public participation is a key part to forging the best regulations possible,” Abruzzo said. “An exceptional number of hearings are being offered by the EQB to gather information and to be sure that people’s voices are heard.”

A free webinar is also scheduled on Friday, Jan. 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. to discuss and answer questions about the proposed changes.

The DEP’s proposed regulations to Act 13 touch on a number of areas including impacts to public resources like parks and wildlife areas; prevention of spills; waste management; well site restoration after drilling; construction standards for gathering lines, temporary pipelines; and the identification and monitoring of abandoned wells near proposed well sites.

Residents can participate in a number of ways, including attending the public hearings, and submitting comments to the EQB. For more information visit the DEP’s Public Participation Center or review the regulations under the Proposed Oil and Gas Regulations at www.depweb.state.pa.us.

To participate in public hearings, residents are required to contact the EQB at least one week in advance of the hearing to reserve a time. They can call 717-787-4526 or write Environmental Quality Board, P.O. Box 8477, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8477. Witnesses are limited to five minutes of testimony and are requested to submit three written copies of their testimony at the hearing. Organizations are limited to designating one witness to present testimony on their behalf at each hearing. Individuals in need of accommodations provided in the Americans with Disabilities Act should contact the EQB to discuss their needs or make accommodations through the Pennsylvania AT&T Relay Service at 800-654-5984 (TDD) or 800-654-5988 for voice users.

Online comments and a one-page summary of their comments can be submitted to the EQB by Feb. 12, 2014 by visiting Online Public Comment System at www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/RegComments.

Written comments and summaries should be mailed to the Environmental Quality Board, P.O. Box 8477, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8477. The summaries and formal comment and response document will be distributed to the EQB and available publicly prior to the meeting when the final rule making will be considered.

Email comments can be submitted to RegComments@pa.gov and must be received on or before Feb. 12. The DEP says if senders do not receive an acknowledgement of submitted comments online or by email within two business days, the comments should be resent to the EQB.