Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission filed their final report on Friday, containing some 96 recommendations for Gov. Corbett and the PA legislature to consider that will strengthen regulation of, and further promote, the shale gas industry in the state. The entire report (137 pages, containing a lot of background details) is embedded below. What follows first is a high level summary of the recommendations, to give you the bullet point quick overview.
Stronger Regulations for Drilling
- Increase bonding amounts from $2,500 to $10,000 and more for deeper wells.
- Up to $250,000 for blanket bonds.
- Triple well setback distance from streams, ponds, and other bodies of water from 100 to 300 feet.
- Increase setback distance from private water wells from 200 to 500 feet and to 1,000 feet for public water systems.
- Expand operator’s presumed liability for impairing water quality from 1,000 ft to 2,500 feet from a well, and extends the duration of presumed liability from 6 months to 12 months.
- Require minimum 24-hour notification before commencing certain well site activities.
- Post critical information online, including violations, penalties and remedial actions.
- Expand public disclosure and information through enhanced well production and completion reporting.
Tougher Penalties for Violators
- Double penalties for civil violations from $25,000 to $50,000.
- Double daily penalties from $1,000 to $2,000 a day.
- Make penalties for criminal violations consistent with other environmental statutes.
- Enhance DEP’s ability to suspend, revoke or deny drilling permits for failure to comply.
Enhance Pennsylvania’s Energy Independence
- Develop “Green Corridors” in Pennsylvania for natural gas-fueled vehicles with filling stations at least every 50 miles and within two miles of designated highways.
- Include natural gas vehicles in Pennsylvania Clean Vehicles Program.
- Provide incentives for the conversion of mass transit and school bus fleets to natural gas.
- Provide incentives for intra-state natural gas pipelines to encourage in-state use and help lower costs for Pennsylvanians.
- Enhance air quality through increased use of natural gas for transportation.
Create Jobs for Pennsylvanians
- Build regional business parks in strategic locations to maximize job-creation potential.
- Evaluate future rail needs to support industry and reduce need for truck traffic.
- Develop a comprehensive strategy to maximize “downstream” use of natural gas and its by-products, such as in chemical manufacturing, plastics, etc.
- Develop a strategy to help Pennsylvania companies to supply natural gas industry with the products they need.
Train Pennsylvanians for Natural Gas Jobs
- Work with industry to develop a standard curriculum to provide proper training.
- Develop job-training assistance and certification programs for jobs in the industry.
- Develop educational material on natural gas for use in grade and high schools.
- Partner with groups like Hiring Our Heroes and Troops to Roughnecks.
- Develop a gas safety inspector training facility in PA. (There is currently only one in the nation located in Oklahoma.)
- Create a one-stop shop for pipeline permitting process to better coordinate review and ensure thorough oversight.
- Evaluate rail freight facilities and capabilities to relieve burden on roads and bridges.
- Evaluate air service and infrastructure needs among regional airports.
- Amend state law to allow location of energy and utility infrastructure within PENNDOT’s right-of-way.
- Expand PA Natural Resource Inventory on-line tool to accommodate linear projects longer than 15,000 feet. (//www.naturalheritage.state.pa.us/)
Protect Public Health
- Create a population-based health registry.
- Collect and evaluate clinical data from health care providers.
- Monitor citizens living near drilling sites.
- Create a system for timely and thorough investigation of complaints.
- Establish education programs about potential impacts on health.
Promote Public Safety
- Assign 911 addresses and GPS coordinates for well sites.
- Develop standardized emergency response plans.
- Provide comprehensive training for local responders.
- Create regional safety task forces.
- Establish a specialized team of emergency responders.
Protect Natural Resources
- Establish an advisory committee within DCNR to discuss future development of state forest and park land.
- Document and monitor effects of industry on plants, forests, wildlife, habitat, water, soil and recreational resources.
- Review and regularly update best management practices for well site construction and operation.
- Prevent spread of invasive plant species.
Help Communities Deal with Impact
- Recommend enactment or authorization to impose a fee to mitigate to uncompensated impacts caused to communities by natural gas development.
- Any fee should recognize on?going nature of certain impacts.
- Attributable impacts identified by the advisory commission include:
- Environmental remediation.
- Public health evaluation and emergency response.
- Increased demand on social services.
- Infrastructure improvements.
- Natural resource agency administration and oversight.