Many wells in sensitive areas not inspected

While 40 percent of new oil and gas wells in ecologically sensitive areas across the nation have not been inspected, it is not an issue in Pennsylvania.

The data behind this comes from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Fluid Minerals Support System, the database the agency uses to track oil and gas information. This is the first time it has been publicly released, according to the Associated Press, and it specifically identifies “high priority” wells.

There are only six wells in the commonwealth that are both located in a fragile area – near Salmon Creek, a class one trout stream – and are pumping federally owned oil and gas. All six are operated by Pennsylvania General Energy, headquartered in Warren and all six are on Tract 13 in the Allegheny National Forest. They are shallow, not Marcellus shale wells, located southwest of Marienville.

According to a 2007 Pittsburgh Post Gazette article, seven percent of the oil and gas rights on the ANF are publicly owned, but of the over 34 thousand acres that number represents, two-thirds are either under the Allegheny Reservoir or in wilderness areas and are off-limits to drilling.

The remaining 10,275 acres are available for leasing through the BLM, who manages the mineral rights under all federal lands.

The BLM inspected five of the Tract 13 wells, numbered 1866 through 1870, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has inspected the remaining well, number 1865.

Speaking of the approximately 12,000 wells on the ANF, Kathy Mohney, Forest executive assistant said, “The DEP is the regulatory agency in Pennsylvania, and is responsible for compliance inspections. The Forest works with the operators to ensure that wells are drilled responsibly and in compliance with DEP standards and regulations.

Gary Clark, Community Relations coordinator for the Northwest Regional Office of the DEP said, “If there were problems (with the well), we would have shut it down or had them corrected.”