PA DEP Undercounting Marcellus Gas Wells – By 12%

It looks as though the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has a data problem: They’ve been undercounting the number of Marcellus Shale gas wells in the state by a significant number. It’s especially a problem for legislators who are trying to calculate how much money new impact fees might generate.

An analysis of DEP data found 495 more wells producing gas, or ready to produce gas, than the DEP has recorded as ever being drilled, and that 182 of those wells don’t even show up on the state’s Marcellus Shale permit list.

The discrepancies with DEP’s Marcellus Shale data have caused headaches for Senate and House staff members who have been trying to make accurate projections about how much revenue an impact fee on wells might generate for local governments.

The data problems span both the Ed Rendell and Tom Corbett administrations.

Data collection and reporting errors were "something identified through the transition period in the first few months" of Corbett’s term as governor in early 2011, said DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday. "And it’s one we hope to clear up and get more consistent at."

"We acknowledge that there are issues in both how the data is presented and how it’s coming in," Sunday said.

The DEP says that since 2007 there have been about 4,200 wells drilled in Pennsylvania, so the 495 missing wells is about a 12 percent error rate on data that are widely quoted by politicians, environmentalists and the industry.*

*The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register (Jan 10, 2012) – Pa. Gas Wells Off The Books