Friday, April 15, 2011

Pennsylvania Proposes Oil & Gas Well Casing and Cementing Rules

Pennsylvania Proposes Oil & Gas Well Casing and Cementing Rules
This post was written by Nicolle Snyder Bagnell and Ariel Nieland.
On July 10, 2010, the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB) published its proposed rulemaking measures to update existing state requirements for drilling, casing, cementing, testing, monitoring and plugging of oil and gas wells. The proposed rulemaking, originally adopted by the EQB in May, is now open for public comment until August 9, 2010. Once the period for public comment is over, the proposal will go before the Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission for review and final publication.
According to the EQB, a large portion of the updates contained in the proposal are already employed as part of best management practices among operators. However, the new regulations are said to further decrease any risk of gas migration from well sites to neighboring water supplies. The proposed rulemaking was prompted, in part, by public concern over the potential impact that the increasing number of Marcellus Shale wells could have on groundwater and drinking water supplies. Although the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's review of current well site construction and operation practices revealed that "many, if not all, Marcellus well operators met or exceeded the current well casing and cementing regulations[,] . . . the current regulations were not specific enough" in detailing guidelines for proper well construction or requirements for operators to respond to complaints over gas migration. The current updates would provide for more specificity in these areas, as well as establish a requirement that well operators conduct quarterly inspections of the structural integrity of all wells in operation.

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