On October 12, 2010, the Environmental Quality Board approved, by a 14-1 vote, a proposed set of regulatory improvements that will make natural gas wells in Pennsylvania significantly safer by making them subject to more stringent construction standards.
The proposed oil and gas well cementing and casing requirements will help prevent natural gas from migrating from a well, which has been associated with contaminated water supplies and adverse impacts to public health and safety.The department used the public’s input to make several important changes to the regulations, which further improved the well design requirements to prevent gas migration incidents, including:
• A provision that requires operators to have a pressure barrier plan to minimize well control events;
• A provision that requires operators to condition the wellbore to ensure an adequate bond between the cement, casing and the formation;
• Provisions that require the use of centralizers to ensure casings are properly positioned in the wellbore; and
• A provision that improves the quality of the cement placed in the casing that protects fresh groundwater.
Pennsylvania's Environmental Quality Board will meet October 12, 2010 to vote on the final rules. The proposed final rules on the Board's agenda strengthen the draft rules in some ways, but still leave important concepts undefined and lack some important protections.
On August 9, 2010, an environmental coalition filed detailed technical comments on the draft rules.
DEP issued draft rules on July 10, 2010. Unfortunately, they did not take all the recommendations of the Harvey Report, although there were some improvements.
The environmental coalition submitted the Harvey Report to Pennsylvania on March 1, 2010.
An environmental coalition, including the Sierra Club and Earthjustice, commissioned expert Susan Harvey to prepare a report on the necessary regulatory standards for well casings. The "Harvey Report" has since been widely cited.
Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection issued an advance notice of draft regulations in January 2010.