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Friday, January 17, 2014

Hundreds attend oil, gas rules hearing in Meadville

MEADVILLE — Are Pennsylvania’s oil and gas regulations too stringent or not stringent enough?

Representatives on both sides of the issue as well as those in-between testified Wednesday night in Meadville at a public hearing by Pennsylvania’s Environmental Quality Board on proposed changes to Pennsylvania’s oil and gas regulations. The final form of the regulations are expected to be enacted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection by 2015.

Thirty-seven people testified at the hearing which attracted more than 200 people to the auditorium at Meadville Area Senior High School.

Bonnie McManus of Adamsville, who represented the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, said the League’s position was the changes didn’t go far enough — particularly when it comes to open pits for temporary storage or impoundment of materials at all well sites.

“Proposed regulations are inadequate to prevent catastrophic risks to public health and the environment,” McManus said. “Even the most sophisticated detection systems, sump pumps, monitoring wells and requirements to fill out forms to monitor leakage cannot prevent irreparable damages from impoundment releases.”

McManus said a possible two-year restoration period after drilling activity is “unacceptable and fails to remove public risk in a timely manner.”

“Land application of any residual waste substance, fill or dredge must be prohibited,” she said. “In most cases, the composition of these wastes and their risks are unknown.”

Joy Ruff of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a trade association for the natural gas industry, said the organization promotes responsible shale gas development.

“Our state is recognized for having some of the nation’s strongest regulations on oil and gas development,” Ruff said. “We do not need onerous rules, but rather we must continue to invest in a highly-trained and competent local workforce.”

Ruff said the organization is concerned some of the proposed regulation changes would “provide little to no additional benefit for our natural environment and will weaken Pennsylvania’s ability to sustain shale development to benefit our residents.”

Ruff said the coalition believes requiring the oil and gas industry to upgrade private water supplies near a site beyond what they were prior to drilling activity was unreasonable.

“Such a double-standard, applying only to the oil and gas industry, is unjust and punitive,” Ruff said.
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