Pennsylvania regulators have tightened unconventional drilling rules designed to safeguard water quality near drilling sites.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said the changes were made to comply with the state’s 2012 Oil and Gas Act.

The new regulations allow the DEP to require additional protective measures if drilling will take place near school property and playgrounds, parks, forests and other public resources.

The new rules require that a well operator demonstrate that the well site location “will protect that watercourse or bodies of water” if it is either 100 feet from any watercourse or a wetland that is larger than one acre.

The new rules also call for operators to restore or replace a water supply that meets Safe Drinking Water Act standards or is as good as pre-drilling conditions if an oil or gas development “degrades” the pre-existing water supply.

Operators will also be required to identify abandoned, orphan, active and inactive wells within 1,000 feet of a vertical and horizontal wellbore prior to hydraulic fracturing.

Operators must also submit electronic forms rather than paper forms to more efficiently track well development and operations and to provide better public access to drilling data.

According to the department, unconventional well drilling occurs in over 60 percent of the state.

The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA), an industry group, called the new rules “flawed.”

“PIOGA is disappointed the department is making these regulations effective. This action continues a flawed, predetermined and antagonistic development process by an agency that ignored clear legislative directives and limitations,” PIOGA president and executive director Daniel J. Weaver said in a statement.

The new rules went into effect on October 8.


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