Friday, February 19, 2010

DEP revising oil and gas well regs

This is a reposting of an article- I think it is critical for citizens, professionals, and organizations to review and comment.

Public comment sought by March 2

PENNSYLVANIA — In efforts to provide better protection to Pennsylvania’s water resources, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is revising its existing rules for the construction of oil and gas wells and soliciting comments on the proposed revisions by March 2.

The proposed rulemaking would incorporate and update existing requirements, with modifications, regarding the drilling, casing, cementing, testing, monitoring and plugging of oil and gas wells.

The effects of unregulated drilling are still being addressed today. Last year, the DEP plugged 259 abandoned oil and gas wells located in the western and north-central regions of the state in nine counties. Many of the wells were leaking oil, acid mine drainage or natural gas.

The department has documented more than 8,600 wells throughout the state that were abandoned prior to the passage of modern oil and gas drilling regulations.

“Abandoned wells create passageways for pollution to enter and contaminate drinking water,” said DEP secretary John Hanger. “They also can allow natural gas to enter water supplies or build up in a home, which can create a dangerous enclosed space. Modern regulations require that wells be cased properly during use and sealed once they are taken out of service but, unfortunately, there are thousands of wells that were simply abandoned before people understood the dangers.”

The costs to plug a well vary with its age, depth and the terrain in which it is found. Typically, DEP crews clear a site and clean or remove the old well. After casings are removed and the well bore is clear, the well is filled with grout or cement and other materials.

Funding for the state’s Abandoned and Orphan Well Plugging Program comes from surcharges on well-drilling permits and from the Growing Greener program.

According to the DEP, Pennsylvania has the highest number of abandoned wells in the Appalachian region and is one of the top five states nationally. Since the first commercial oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859, DEP estimates as many as 350,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled in the state, with many of those wells having been abandoned without proper plugging.

Locally, the Wayne Conservation District has begun investigating the locations of such wells in the county. To report an abandoned well, call 570/253-0930.

View the proposed changes to the gas and oil well regulations at

Written comments on the draft proposed rulemaking should be sent to the DEP, Bureau of Oil and Gas Management, P.O. Box 8765, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8765. Comments may also be submitted electronically to the department at

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