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5 important facts about new DEP oil and gas regulations

New state regulations on oil and gas sites are nearing the homestretch of the rulemaking process.

The latest version of changes to Chapter 78, which regulates how oil and natural gas companies should behave both at traditional well sites and shale gas sites, were unveiled Wednesday by Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley and Deputy Secretary Scott Perry.

Here are five facts about the proposed rules:

–If drillers contaminate a water supply, they must restore it to its conditions before drilling or to standards that meet the state’s Safe Drinking Water Act, whichever is better. In earlier versions, drillers only had to restore water to pre-drilling conditions.

–The new version does not include regulations for noise on well sites. Though state law requires the DEP to regulate public nuisances, “it was clear based on the comments we received that the noise regulation at this point in time was premature,” Mr. Perry said Wednesday. Instead, the department will publish a nonbinding guidance document on best practices to reduce noise, he said.

–Gas companies must close pits where they store waste within three years of the final regulations or obtain a permit through the department’s waste division.

–If the well site lies within 100 feet of a state-designated “high quality” or “exceptional value” water body or wetland, the gas company must demonstrate how its operations will protect those bodies of water.

In related news, New regulations on Colorado oilfield spills keep operators honest.

–The department added schools and playgrounds to the list of “public resources” in the 200-foot radius the DEP must consider when issuing a well permit. Drillers can still put a well within 200 feet of a school or playground, but the DEP must consider them and other public goods like state lands, historical sites, scenic rivers or landmarks. Drilling operations cannot impede people’s use of these resources.

The updated regulations span 291 pages and are available on the home page of the DEP website by clicking the “Oil and Gas Rulemaking” button.

The process that led to these “draft final” rules began in 2011. Since then, they have gone through multiple reviews by the DEP’s advisory groups and several public comment periods. About 24,500 public comments were submitted to the department, which held 12 public hearings across the state, Mr. Quigley said.

He argued these rules fit the DEP’s definition of responsible drilling: “Protecting public health and the environment while enabling drilling to proceed.”

The DEP plans to bring these rules before two advisory boards and the Environmental Quality Board before the end of 2015, Mr. Quigley said.

The state Independent Regulatory Review Commission will have the rules by March 2016, he said. They will be published as final rules by the second quarter of 2016.

Contact the writer:

bgibbons@timesshamrock.com, @bgibbonsTT on Twitter

This article was written by Brendan Gibbons from The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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