August 22, 2008

PA DEP Amends, Streamlines Marcellus Shale Drilling Permit Applications to Protect Water Resources, Expedite Review


Contact: Neil Weaver of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, +1-717-787-1323

Gas Developers to Identify Water Sources, Treatment Locations as Part of Permit Process

HARRISBURG, Pa.,Aug. 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Department of Environmental Protection unveiled a streamlined process today that will make it easier for the agency to review permit applications by companies seeking to develop the 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas believed to be stored in the Marcellus Shale geologic formation.

Deputy Secretary for Water Management Cathleen Curran Myers said the revised permit application guidelines could allow natural gas developers to begin operations sooner if the department can ensure Pennsylvania's water resources are not threatened by drilling.

"There has been considerable interest in developing the natural gas resources contained in the Marcellus Shale--interests that could yield a substantial economic boom for the commonwealth," said Myers. "DEP has been working in cooperation with the Susquehanna and Delaware river basin commissions to create a consistent, streamlined process for evaluating water usage and disposal in all areas of the state because this type of drilling requires significant amounts of water. In the course of reviewing any gas well permit, we need to have a thorough understanding of proposed water withdrawals, as well as disposal and treatment plans.

"This addendum to the permit application requiring a water management plan will reduce administrative delays for the drilling industry while helping us to determine what demands will be placed on our natural water resources."

Under the new application process, gas well operators seeking to extract resources from the Marcellus Shale formation must provide the following information to DEP when applying for a permit to drill a gas well:

-- Type of well with proposed location plotted on a U.S. Geological Survey topographical map showing property lines and horizontal bores;

-- Acreage to be disturbed by drilling and operations;

-- Sources and locations of water to be used in the drilling process, the impacts of drilling on water resources, and proof that the water withdrawals have been approved by the appropriate river basin commission;

-- Location(s) of treatment facilities where drilling and fracing fluids will be taken for treatment and disposal; and

-- Size and locations of proposed dams and water impoundments

The permit application addendum applies only to wells being drilled into the Marcellus Shale formation and was created following meetings with industry and regulators.

The Susquehanna and Delaware river basin commissions oversee water usage and require all gas drillers to obtain approval prior to beginning water withdrawals or use.

DEP's permit application addendum for Marcellus Shale wells creates similar processes for drilling-related water use in Pennsylvania's other major watersheds, which include the Ohio, Potomac and Genesee rivers and Lake Erie.

Pennsylvania and other northeast states have seen a substantial increase in drilling activity associated with the vast Marcellus Shale. The geologic formation underlies much of the commonwealth at a depth of 5,000 to 6,000 feet.

Until recently those natural gas deposits were inaccessible and cost-prohibitive to extract, but higher energy costs and new drilling techniques have sparked exploration and drilling in previously untapped formations.

"There is the potential for significant economic opportunity for the citizens of the commonwealth with the development of the Marcellus Shale formation, but this resource must be extracted in a manner that is consistent with state and federal laws that protect our water resources," said DEP's Deputy Secretary for Mineral Resources Management J. Scott Roberts. "The drilling industry has been cooperative with this effort, and DEP regional staff has been trained on the new procedures so that permit applications can be reviewed and processed in a timely manner."

Companies that have already completed drilling permit applications or received permits may submit the new information to the department for review in a narrative form. Beginning in October, all drilling permit applications must use the new format.

In May and June, routine DEP inspections uncovered violations at Marcellus Shale drilling operations including poorly constructed water impoundments, inadequate erosion and sediment controls, improper waste and fluid disposal and unregistered and unapproved water withdrawals from streams. The violations threatened the state's water resources.

In response, DEP, along with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Fish and Boat Commission, the Susquehanna and Delaware river basin commissions, and the state's county conservation districts hosted a summit with current and prospective gas exploration companies to review permit application requirements for water management plans.

DEP regulates oil and gas exploration and drilling under the state oil and gas laws, the Clean Streams Law, the Dam Safety and Encroachments Act, the Solid Waste Management Act, and the Water Resources Planning Act.

For more information,, keyword: Oil and Gas.

CONTACT:Neil Weaver

(717) 787-1323

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

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