PA’s New Oil and Gas Law
| The Pennsylvania General Assembly recently enacted Act 13, which substantially revises the Oil and Gas Act of 1984. Governor Corbett signed Act 13 into law on February 14, 2012, and most of its provisions take effect on April 16, 2012. The legislation was the result of many months, if not years, of negotiations and discussions among legislators, regulators, industry stakeholders and environmental groups. Act 13 provides for: 1) new well fees to be assessed and collected on unconventional wells; 2) a formula for distribution of these fees; 3) substantial revisions to environmental protections for both surface and subsurface activities; and 4) restrictions on the authority of local governments to impose burdens on oil and gas activities beyond those required by the state or those imposed upon other commercial and industrial activities. Well Fee Assessment and CollectionThe new well fee applies to unconventional wells, which are defined as wells drilled to produce natural gas from shale existing below the base of the Elk Sandstone or its geological equivalent where natural gas generally cannot be produced at economic flow rates or in economic volumes except by hydraulic fracturing or by the use of multilateral well bores. The fee is assessed on wells located in counties that enact a well fee ordinance. The deadline for a county to adopt an ordinance assessing fees for wells drilled prior to January 1, 2012 is April 16, 2012. If a county fails to enact such an ordinance, municipalities can force the county to impose the fee if by June 13, 2012: 1) 50% of the municipalities in the county enact a resolution imposing the fee; or 2) municipalities representing at least 50% of the population in the county do so. Counties enacting a well fee after the above deadlines shall be eligible to receive fee disbursements for the calendar year subsequent to enactment. The fee is determined by the average annual price per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in the previous calendar year:
The fee for wells drilled prior to 2012 must be paid to the Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) by September 1, 2012. Thereafter, the fee must be paid by April 1 of the following year. The fee amounts set forth in the above table shall increase if two prerequisites occur: 1) more wells are drilled in the assessment year than in the prior year; and 2) there is an increase in the Consumer Price Index (“CPI”) for the assessment year. Wells that were in existence before January 1, 2012 are considered to be in their first year of production in 2011 for the purposes of assessing the fee. Vertical-only unconventional wells are subject to a reduced fee that is 20% of the applicable amount set forth above for years 1-10 only. Unconventional wells producing less than 90,000 cubic feet of gas per day are not subject to the fee.
Well Fee Distribution
Initial annual allocations are made to various state agencies and to a specific grant program administered by the Marcellus Legacy Fund. These allocations will total $22.25 million from fees paid in 2012, and will fluctuate in future years based upon increases in the CPI and the expiration of some of the grant programs. After the initial annual allocations, fees are distributed as follows:
Reembursements are to be made by the PUC by December 1, 2012, and by July 1 each year thereafter. Fees distributed to counties and municipalities shall only be used for: the maintenance and construction of roadways, bridges and public infrastructure; water, stormwater and sewer systems; emergency preparedness; environmental programs; preservation and reclamation of surface and subsurface waters; tax reductions; projects to increase the availability of safe and affordable housing; records management, geographic information systems and information technology; social services; judicial services; and deposits into the capital reserve fund. The Marcellus Legacy Fund benefits a number of state agencies and statewide programs, including water quality initiatives, conservation, infrastructure, and hazardous site cleanup.
Most of the new environmental provisions are directed at unconventional wells. Act 13 requires operators of unconventional wells to disclose hydraulic fracture fluids to the Chemical Disclosure Registry, which will make information about chemicals and additives available to the public. Trade secrets and proprietary information can be protected from disclosure.
Other new provisions directed to unconventional wells include:
Act 13 revised prior requirements related to permitting, well site locations and protection of water supplies. For example:
Act 13 also creates a new “well control emergency response” whereby the DEP can use well control specialists, by contract, to provide emergency response services at any well site. Costs for such services are recoverable from persons responsible for the well control emergency. Additionally, Act 13 increases bonding requirements for all types of wells for permit applications received after the effective date of the Act. It also substantially increases civil penalties that may be assessed against operators of unconventional wells.
This list is not exhaustive – there are several other new requirements for inspections, reports, plans and more that will become effective on April 16, 2012.
Preemption of Local Ordinances/Reasonable Development of Oil and Gas
All local ordinances are preempted, except those adopted pursuant to the Municipalities Planning Code (“MPC”) and the Flood Plain Management Act. Ordinances cannot address the same features or purposes as Act 13, and are also preempted by state and Federal environmental statutes.
Significantly, local ordinances also must provide for the “reasonable development of oil and gas” as follows:
Legal Review of Local Ordinances
Pre-enactment, municipalities may request the PUC to review an ordinance’s legality. This determination must occur within 120 days of submission. It is advisory and not subject to appeal.
Post-enactment, a property owner, operator or resident may request PUC review of the legality of an enacted ordinance. The order must be issued within 120 days. An appeal from the PUC’s order may be taken to the Commonwealth Court within 30 days of issuance. Challenges also may be taken directly to the Commonwealth Court without first seeking review by the PUC.
The Commonwealth Court may award reasonable attorneys fees and costs to the plaintiff where the Court determines that the municipality enacted or enforced a local ordinance with willful or reckless disregard or to the municipality where the Court determines that the challenge was frivolous or brought without substantial justification. Municipalities found to be in violation of Act 13 shall not receive any well fee funds until the ordinance is amended, repealed or the order that the ordinance is unlawful is reversed on appeal. Municipalities have until August 13, 2012 to bring previously enacted ordinances into compliance.
For more information please contact Blaine Lucas at 412-394-5657 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Kevin Garber at 412-394-5404 or email@example.com, Jean Mosites at 412-394-6468 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Lawrence Baumiller at 412-394-5490 or email@example.com
Fracking Democracy: Why Pennsylvania’s Act 13 May Be the Nation’s Worst Corporate Giveaway
Editor’s Note: This is the first of two articles about Pennsylvania’s Act 13, perhaps the worst new environmental law in the nation, and the effort to stop it from taking effect. You can read the second one here.
Pennsylvania, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed and where the U.S. coal, oil and nuclear industries began, has adopted what may be the most anti-democratic, anti-environmental law in the country, giving gas companies the right to drill anywhere, overturn local zoning laws, seize private property and muzzle physicians from disclosing specific health impacts from drilling fluids on patients.
The industry previously was denied the ability to intervene by Commonwealth Court Judge Keith Quigley.
The court will hear preliminary objections to the suit by the state, and the plaintiffs will seek to have the court decide the constitutional merits of Act 13 without moving to trial.
Cecil, Peters, Mt. Pleasant and Robinson townships in Washington County are all plaintiffs in the suit, along with South Fayette Township in Allegheny County, a Monroeville doctor, two Bucks County communities and the Delaware Riverkeepers Network. They contend that Act 13, which regulates oil and gas drilling throughout the state, unconstitutionally strips communities of their zoning and land-use planning rights.
Act 13 has won plaudits, however, from industry officials and some lawmakers who say that it brings uniformity and predictability to Marcellus Shale drillers. It was approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett in February.
The companies and advocacy groups set to make arguments against it collectively include MarkWest Liberty Midstream and Resources, Penneco Oil Co., Chesapeake Appalachia, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association and the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
ACT 13 Frequently Asked Questions
The purpose of this FAQ is to highlight changes in the new law. This FAQ should not be used in lieu of reference to the law itself. The information in this guidance is solely advisory and does not represent a legal interpretation by the department. Nothing in this summary shall affect any statutory requirements.
Act 13 became law when Governor Corbett signed House Bill 1950 on Feb. 14, 2012.
A conventional gas well, also known as a traditional well, is a well that produces oil or gas from a conventional formation. Conventional formations are variable in age, occurring both above and below the Elk Sandstone. While a limited number of such gas wells are capable of producing sufficient quantities of gas without stimulation by hydraulic fracturing, most conventional wells require this stimulation technique due to the reservoir characteristics in Pennsylvania. Stimulation of conventional wells, however, generally does not require the volume of fluids typically required for unconventional wells.
An unconventional gas well is a well that is drilled into an unconventional formation, which is defined as a geologic shale formation below the base of the Elk Sandstone or its geologic equivalent where natural gas generally cannot be produced except by horizontal or vertical well bores stimulated by hydraulic fracturing.
Unconventional formations that are currently being targeted or that may possibly be targeted for oil and gas development in Pennsylvania include, but are not limited to, the Marcellus, Utica, Mandata, Huron, Rhinestreet, and miscellaneous Upper Devonian formations such as the Dunkirk, Pipe Creek, Middlesex, Geneseo, and Burkett. There are some shale formations, including the Huron, Dunkirk, and Pipe Creek shales, that are younger than the oldest basal Elk Sandstone section and, therefore, do not meet the Act 13 definition of an “unconventional formation.”
A stripper well is an unconventional gas well incapable of producing more than 90,000 cubic feet of gas per day.
Act 13 defines “spud” as the actual start of drilling of an unconventional well. DEP considers a well to be spud when the drilling bit penetrates the surface of the land. Therefore, any well with conductor pipe or any other casing is a spud well. Well sites with only a cellar would not be considered to have a spud well.
Act 13 required DEP, within 14 days of passage of the Act, to provide a report to the PUC that identifies all spud unconventional gas wells that received a drilling permit from DEP. DEP met this commitment and all spud reports that DEP submitted to the PUC are available for review on DEP’s website. If you are a county, municipality or oil and gas operator and disagree with any of the data that appears on a spud report that DEP supplied to the PUC, contact DEP via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will be contacted by DEP to discuss the matter and, if necessary, the Department will correct or update its database and report this information to the PUC.
Yes. Act 13 is projected to provide $6 million annually from impact fee revenues to the department for the administration of its oil and gas program and for enforcing clean air and clean water laws.
For more information on Act 13′s effect on local zoning of oil and gas activities, please visit the Public Utility Commission’s website.
Act 13 provides for enhanced environmental protections for the development of unconventional wells and for the collection and imposition of an impact fee for the development of unconventional wells. Operators of conventional gas wells are not subject to the impact fee provisions contained in Act 13.
The new bonding fee schedule implemented by the Act applies to all oil and gas wells. (Please see §3225 of the Act)
All permit applicants must notify host and adjacent municipalities of their intent to drill and list these municipalities on the permit application. The Act establishes that the department may deny a permit on the basis of the operator’s compliance history. The department may also revoke or suspend a permit based on compliance. (Please see §3211 of the Act)
All operators must post the well permit on site prior to construction. Spud notifications must be submitted to DEP electronically. (Please see §3211 of the Act)
All operators must abide by the corrosion control requirements set forth in the Act, where applicable. (Please see §3218.4 of the Act)
The siting restrictions for development in floodplains, as discussed in question 18, also apply to conventional wells. (Please see §3215 of the Act)
All oil and gas operators are required to submit well records within 30 days of drilling a well and completion reports within 30 days of completing a well. The new additions to those reports, as discussed in questions 13 and 14, apply to all operators. (Please see §3222 of the Act)
Any oil and gas operator may petition the department for an extension of the time requirement to restore a well site. Currently, sites must be restored nine months after completion of drilling a well. Should an operator demonstrate through a plan the conditions outlined in question 20, the department may extend the time requirement by up to two years. (Please see §3216 of the Act)
The rebuttable presumption of liability provisions for diminution or contamination of water supplies due to oil and gas activity remains the same for conventional well operations. Any operator, conventional or unconventional, found to have impacted water supplies must restore or replace the water supplies to either Safe Drinking Water Standards or pre-existing water quality standards, whichever is of greater quality. Operators found to have impacted a water supply within the time and distance provisions of the presumption of liability must supply temporary potable water until the supply is restored or replaced. (Please see §3218 of the Act)
Permitting, notifications, bonding and reporting
Yes. All operators must provide 24 hours’ notice of the date that drilling will commence to the department electronically via the department’s online oil and gas reporting application.
Yes. The department will be amending its well permit application and associated materials to address the changes in the requirements.Please refer to the department’s website for the most up-to-date application materials.
The timeframe for reviewing permit applications is largely unchanged. The department must issue a permit within 45 days of submission of a permit application unless for the reasons outlined in § 3211(e.1), except the department may extend the review period for 15 days. Act 13 now allows the department to extend this review period up to an additional 15 days (for a total of 75 days) if the applicant seeks a variance or waiver request of the well location restrictions. (Please see §§ 3215(a) and (b)(4) of the Act)
Additionally, Act 13 also provides additional bases for permit denial. The department may now deny issuing a permit to an applicant if the applicant, parent or subsidiary is in continuing violation of applicable state laws and regulations, or the application has failed to pay the required impact fee or file a report under § 2303.
Municipalities where an unconventional well is proposed to be drilled may submit written comments to the Department describing the local conditions or circumstances which the municipality determines should be considered by the department.
Operators of gas storage reservoirs may comment on the proposed drilling of unconventional wells within 3,000 feet, measured from the well bore, of a gas storage reservoir. Gas storage reservoirs are the portion of a subsurface geological stratum into which gas is, or may be, injected for storage purposes or to test suitability of the stratum for storage. Storage operators may submit written comments to the department describing circumstances which the storage operator determines should be considered by the department.
Comments shall be submitted within 15 days of receipt of the notice of the plat to the department as well as all parties entitled to receive notification of the well permit application.
Written responses to a municipality or gas storage reservoir operator’s comments shall be submitted by the applicant to the department within 10 days of receipt of comments. The department may consider any comments or responses it receives in its review of a permit application. (Please see §3212.1(a)-(b) of the Act)
Any person who withdraws or uses water for drilling or hydraulic fracture stimulation of any natural gas well completed in an unconventional gas formation must submit and have approved a water management plan, which includes a water reuse plan, prior to withdrawing the water. The plan’s requirements shall be presumed to have been met if the proposed water withdrawal has been approved by the appropriate River Basin Commission and is operated in accordance with conditions established by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, the Delaware River Basin Commission or the Great Lakes Commission, as applicable. The department may establish additional requirements as necessary to comply with the laws of the Commonwealth. Compliance with the water management plan shall be a condition of any permit issued by the department. (Please see §3211(m) of the Act)
Yes. Act 13 increases well bonding requirements, which are currently established at $2,500 per well or $25,000 for a blanket bond. Bond amounts shall be established based on well-bore length and number of wells operated, as follows*:
For wells with total well bore lengths less than 6,000 feet:
• For up to 50 wells – $4,000/well not to exceed $35,000
• For 51-150 wells – $35,000 plus $4,000/well not to exceed $60,000
• For 151-250 wells – $60,000 plus $4,000/well not to exceed $100,000
• For more than 250 wells – $100,000 plus $4,000/well not to exceed $250,000
For wells with total well bore lengths 6,000 feet or greater:
• For up to 25 wells – $10,000/well not to exceed $140,000
• For 26-50 wells – $140,000 plus $10,000/well not to exceed $290,000
• For 51-150 wells – $290,000 plus $10,000/well not to exceed $430,000
• For more than 150 wells – $430,000 plus $10,000/well not to exceed $600,000
Bond amounts may be adjusted every two years by the Environmental Quality Board. (Please see §3225 of the Act)
*Note: The department will be establishing an administrative implementation schedule and is in the process of developing new bonding forms. Prior to securing a bond, please consult with the department for the latest information.
Yes. A well operator must file with the department a well record within 30 days of drilling a well. In addition to previous regulatory requirements defining what must be included in the well record, Act 13 requires the operator to identify true vertical depths at which methane was encountered, other than in the target formation; and the country of origin and manufacture of the tubular steel products used in well construction. The department is developing new forms for this information.
Yes. A well operator must file with the department a completion report within 30 days after completion of the well, when the well is capable of production.
Act 13 specifies that the completion report must contain the operator’s stimulation record. The stimulation record must include:
• A descriptive list of the chemical additives used.
• The trade name, vendor, and intended use of each chemical additive
• A list of chemicals used
• The percent by mass of each chemical used
• The total volume
• List of water sources
• Pump rates, pressures, total volume used to stimulate a well
• Total volume of recycled water used
An operator may designate portions of the stimulation record as containing trade secret or confidential proprietary information and the department shall prevent disclosure to the extent permitted by the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law or other applicable law.
No, section 3211(b)(2) of the new law did not alter the method for providing notice of the plat – notice must still be provided to the listed parties via certified mail through the United States Postal Service. In accordance with the statute, the Department will not accept mail slips from commercial vendors such as UPS or FedEx. The Department will return any such submissions to the applicant and consider the permit application administratively incomplete.
As part of the well permit application parties, certain persons have to be notified.
Act 13 identified additional persons who must receive notice of the plat via certified mail as part of the well permit application process. These additional persons include:
• the municipality in which the tract of land upon which the well to be drilled is located
• each municipality within 3,000 feet of the proposed unconventional vertical well bore
• the municipalities adjacent to the well
• all surface landowners and water purveyors whose water supplies are within 3,000 feet of a proposed unconventional well bore
• gas storage operators within 3,000 feet of the proposed unconventional vertical well bore
Act 13 does not change the requirement that the following persons must continue be notified:
• the surface landowner
• all surface landowners and water purveyors, whose water supplies are within 1,000 feet of a proposed conventional well location
• the owner and lessee of any coal seams
• each coal operator required to be identified on the well permit application.
“Adjacent municipalities” are all those municipalities sharing a common border with the municipality in which the tract of land upon which the well to be drilled is located. In addition, municipalities located within 3,000 feet of the proposed unconventional well bore also must receive notice of the plat via certified mail, whether or not they share a common border with the municipality in which the tract of land upon which the well to be drilled is located.
Environmental protections and setbacks
The environmental protection provisions set for by the law are effective as of April 16, 2012.
Yes. By signing Act 13 into law, Governor Corbett enacted one of the most aggressive and transparent hydraulic fracturing disclosure laws in the country. The law is based in large part on the success of similar disclosure requirements enacted by the state of Colorado. Colorado’s requirements, upon which much of this Act’s disclosure requirements were based, were hailed by progressive industry representatives, environmental organizations and many other groups as a model for other states.
Unconventional well operators must complete a chemical disclosure registry form for publication on FracFocus.org in addition to the reporting required to be submitted to the department. The use of FracFocus.org was recommended and supported by a Department of Energy advisory panel’s report on hydraulic fracturing.
Because the registry must be used for all hydraulic fracturing of unconventional wells performed on or after April 16, 2012, the Department expects all operators to be registered with FracFocus.org and be prepared to begin using the registry. Within 60 days of the conclusion of hydraulic fracturing, operators must complete and post the chemical registry disclosure form on the registry.
Act 13 provides for immediate, verbal communication of any proprietary information to emergency responders to ensure the necessary care or treatment is delivered to anyone who may have been affected. The Act states that nothing shall prevent the department, a public health official, an emergency manager or a responder to a spill, release or complaint from a person who may have been aggrieved by the spill or release from obtaining information needed upon written request. (Please see §3222.1 of the Act)
Yes. Act 13 extends the setback distance for unconventional wells from 200 feet to 500 feet from existing buildings or water wells, unless consented to by the owner of the building or water well.
This Act establishes a 1,000-foot setback for an unconventional well from a water supply extraction point used by a water purveyor, unless written consent is obtained from the water purveyor.
The department shall grant a variance from these distance restrictions if the operator submits a plan identifying additional measures, facilities or practices to be employed during well site construction, drilling and operations that is approved by the department. The variance, if granted, shall include any necessary additional terms and conditions of the permit ensure the safety and protection of affected persons and property.
Act 13 also extends the setback distance for unconventional wells from 100 feet to 300 feet from any solid blue lined stream, spring, or body of water or wetland greater than one acre in size as identified on the most recent 7 ½ minute topographic quadrangle map of the United States Geological Survey.
Unconventional well site pads must also maintain a setback of 100 feet between the edge of disturbance and any stream, spring, body of water or wetland greater than one acre in size.
The department shall grant a waiver for these setback requirements if the operator submits a plan identifying additional measures, facilities or practices to be employed during well site construction, drilling and operations that is approved by the department. Any waiver shall contain additional terms and conditions as necessary to protect the waters of the Commonwealth
Act 13 prohibits the preparation of any well site or drilling of any well within a floodplain if the site will include a pit or impoundment containing drilling cuttings, flowback water, produced water, hazardous materials, chemicals or wastes located within the floodplain; or a tank containing hazardous materials, chemicals, condensate, wastes, flowback or produced water within the floodway. Please consult the Act and appropriate regulation for definitions of these terms.
The Department may issue a waiver to these restrictions upon approval of a plan identifying additional measures, facilities or practices to be employed. The department may impose terms and conditions on the waiver necessary to protect the waters of the commonwealth.
Floodplain boundaries referenced are those indicated on maps and flood insurance studies provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In an area where no FEMA maps or studies have defined the boundary of the floodplain, refer to defaults in § 3215(f)(5).
Yes. Siting restrictions will not apply to a new permit application for a well at an existing well site that has at least one currently valid well permit issued prior to April 16, 2012. (Please see §3215(g) of the Act)
All operators must restore the land surface within the area disturbed in siting, drilling, completing and producing the well. Within nine months after completion of drilling the well, the operator shall restore the well site, remove or fill all pits used to contain produced fluids or industrial wastes and remove all drilling supplies and equipment not needed for production, unless consent is obtained from the surface landowner. An operator may request to extend the timeframe by up to an additional two years upon a determination that (a) the extension will result in less earth disturbance, increased water reuse or more efficient development OR (b) site restoration cannot be achieved due to adverse weather conditions or a lack of essential fuel, equipment or labor.
To demonstrate that the extension will result in less earth disturbance, increased water reuse or more efficient development of the resource, the operator must provide a site restoration plan that provides for the timely removal or fill of all pits used to contain fluids or industrial wastes; the removal of all drilling supplies and equipment not needed for production; the stabilization of the well site, including post-construction storm water management best management practices; or other measures to minimize accelerated erosion and sedimentation. The plan must also provide for returning portions of the site not occupied by production or equipment to approximate original contours capable of supporting pre-drilling existing uses. (Please see §3216 of the Act)
A well operator who affects a public or private water supply by pollution or diminution must restore or replace the affected water supply with an alternate source of water adequate in quality and quantity for the purposes served by the supply. This replaced or restored water supply must meet to the greater of pre-existing water quality standards or water quality standards established by the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Act.
Act 13 increased the presumption of liability for water supply contamination for unconventional wells. Unless rebutted, the Act presumes that an operator is responsible for pollution of a water supply if the affected water supply is 2,500 feet from an unconventional well and that pollution occurred within 12 months of the later of completion, drilling, stimulation or alteration of the unconventional well.
Operators found to have impacted water supplies within the time and distance provisions of the presumption of liability must provide temporary potable water until the supplies are restored or replaced.
Unconventional well operators must provide written notice to landowners or water purveyors that the rebuttable presumption may be void if the landowner or water purveyor refuses the operator access to conduct a pre-drilling or pre-alteration survey.
All buried metallic pipelines shall be installed and placed in operation in accordance with federal corrosion protection requirements (49 CFR Part. 192 Subpart. I).
Permanent aboveground and underground tanks must comply with applicable corrosion control requirements in the department’s storage tank regulations.
The Environmental Quality Board will promulgate corrosion control regulations for all other buried metallic structures, such as well casings, as determined as necessary.
Corrosion control procedures must be carried out under the direction of a qualified person. A pipeline operator of new, replaced, relocated or otherwise changed pipeline must comply with these requirements as of April 16, 2012. (Please see §3218.4 of the Act)
Yes. Unconventional well sites must be designed and constructed to prevent spills to the ground surface or off the well site. Containment practices must be in place during both drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations and must be sufficiently impervious and able to contain spilled materials, and be compatible with the waste material or waste stored within the containment. Containment plans must be submitted to the department and describe any equipment that is to be kept onsite to prevent a spill from leaving the well pad.
Containment systems shall be used wherever drilling mud, hydraulic oil, diesel fuel, drilling mud additives, hydraulic fracturing additives, and/or hydraulic fracturing flowback are stored. Containment areas must be sufficient to hold the volume of the largest container stored in the area plus ten percent. (Please see §3218.2 of the Act)
Yes. Unconventional well operators that transport wastewater fluids must maintain for five years records of fluids transported and make such records available to the department upon request. The records must include the number of gallons of wastewater fluids produced during drilling, stimulation or alteration of the well; the name of the person or company that transported wastewater fluids; the location where wastewater fluids were disposed of or transported and the volumes disposed of at the well location; and the method of disposal.
Inspections and enforcements
Yes. The department may enter into contracts with well control specialists to provide adequate response services in the event of a well control emergency. Well control specialists under contract with the Department shall be immune from civil liability for good faith response actions, except for breach of contract, intentional tort or gross negligence.
A person liable for a well control emergency is responsible for all response costs incurred by the department. (Please see §3219.1 and §3254.1 of the Act)
Act 13 increases penalties for criminal violations from up to $300 to up to $1,000 per offense. Civil penalties have increased for unconventional gas well operators from $25,000 plus $1,000 per day to $75,000 plus $5,000 per day. (Please see §3256 of the Act)
Democrats plan ‘fix’ for Act 13
- “What we are trying to do is find a balance. We are not trying to put the industry out of business.”
Rep. Steve Santarsiero
By Gary Weckselblatt Staff Writer Calkins Media, Inc.
Each week since Gov. Tom Corbett signed Act 13 into law in mid-February, Steve Santarsiero has risen to speak on the House floor against the measure that imposes an impact fee on companies drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
Since his speech is contingent on no member objecting, the Democrat from Newtown has been gaveled down by objections from Republicans, the majority party, just a few sentences into his remarks.
It’s gotten to the point where Republicans have taken him aside and asked what he’s been trying to say. When he tells them, he said the response has been “that sounds reasonable.”
On Monday, House Democrats unveiled what they’re calling the Marcellus Compact. It’s a six-point plan that includes much of what Santarsiero has been pushing for months and Democrats say “fixes” Act 13. Specifically, it uses his legislation to protect natural resources by increasing environmental setbacks and bonding requirements.
Setbacks would increase from 300 to 420 feet for streams; from 1,000 to 3,000 feet for public wells; and 500 to 1,200 feet for private wells. Bonding would double to $20,000 per well.
The plan also restores municipal zoning authority; increases Act 13’s severance tax on natural gas drillers; guarantees patients’ rights to full medical disclosure when their health might have been affected by fracking chemicals; establishes a Marcellus Shale Job Creation Tax Credit; and establishes a public online tracking system for fracking wastewater storage and disposal; prohibits drilling in floodplains; and places a moratorium on discharging drilling wastewater into surface waters.
“What we are trying to do is find a balance,” Santarsiero said. “We are not trying to put the industry out of business.”
State Rep. John Galloway, D-140, said, “We’re simply trying to do what Sarah Palin did in Alaska, Rick Perry did in Texas and every state in the union has done. We want to make sure every person in Pennsylvania benefits.
“Why can’t we do it here? Is it a tax increase? Sarah Palin didn’t feel that way. Rick Perry didn’t feel that way.”
Galloway said when Republicans stood up to speak before voting for the bill, “they all said this bill is not perfect. Well, here’s their chance to fix it.”
State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-18, said his best friend in the Legislature is Matt Baker, a Republican from Tioga County where drilling is taking place.
DiGirolamo said in conversations the two have had “everybody seems to be perfectly fine with (Act 13), the people who live in the area, government entities and the people doing the drilling. My stance would be to give this thing a chance to work and see how it goes.”
State Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-10, has said he will introduce an amendment to Act 13 that exempts Bucks County municipalities from some requirements of the new natural gas drilling law after Nockamixon and Yardley joined a lawsuit against the law.
“My colleagues in Harrisburg never intended for it to affect us,” McIlhinney has said. He hopes to have the measure passed by the end of the legislative calendar year in June.
DiGirolamo said he supports McIlhinney’s efforts.
State Rep. Todd Stephens, R-151, said some proposals in the Democrats’ bill appear worthy of consideration.
“A bipartisan majority reached a compromise to enact Act 13, which imposes fees on drillers to fund environmental and conservation programs, strengthens environmental protections, and ensures our physicians have access to information to treat their patients — all important initiatives that were never accomplished in previous sessions of the General Assembly and under the prior administration. That said, I’m always interested in ways to improve our laws where necessary.”
State Rep. Marguerite Quinn, R-143, said she has only seen highlights of the Democrats’ plan.
“Given the limited information, I am supportive of the concepts put forth,” she said. “Act 13 was a compromise bill. I was never happy with the final product, but it was the first step. I am certainly interested in working across the aisle to do what is best for Pennsylvania.”