PA DEP Plans to Raise Marcellus Well Permit Fee by 250%

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP), the agency charged with overseeing oil and gas drilling in the state, has “blindsided” the shale industry with a proposal to hike the fee required when submitting an application to drill a new shale well. The current fee is $5,000. The proposed new fee is $12,500–or 2.5 times greater (i.e. 250% higher). The DEP Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board (TAB) is scheduled to meet next week, on Feb. 14, to discuss the permit fee increase. The fee funds the oil and gas program within the DEP. Wells must be visited and inspected throughout their life–decades after they are initially drilled. The permit fee is a one-time, up-front fee. Over the past couple of years the number of new wells getting drilled has decreased (although in 2017 it went back up, see PA Shale Wells Drilled Soars 56% in 2017; Impact Fee Up $5,400/Well). Because there have been fewer wells drilled in recent years, there’s a lot less money in the DEP’s budget for well inspectors. Hence the plan to hike the fee. The industry does not object to a measured increase–but going up 250% is “excessive” and not called for, according to the Marcellus Shale Coalition. In addition to the permit fee hike, the TAB meeting will also hold a discussion on finalizing new GP-5 and GP-5A General Permits to control methane emissions from oil and gas operations. Buckle up, the next TAB meeting looks like it may get heated…

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