By Robert Swift (Harrisburg Bureau Chief)
Published: January 19, 2012
HARRISBURG – A bill requiring Marcellus well operators to upgrade safety procedures is headed to Gov. Tom Corbett’s desk following final approval today in the Senate.
The measure sponsored by Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, requires operators of new and existing wells to provide sophisticated siting information to emergency responders and develop response plans to deal with accidents and spills.
“Senate Bill 995 fills a gaping information hole,” Baker said. “When something goes wrong, having emergency information posted at the site, and a plan that is shared with key emergency personnel, are vital parts of a risk reduction plan.”
The bill specifies that operators are to post signs at the well site bearing their GPS coordinates so firefighters, ambulance crews and hazmat teams know where wells and access roads are located and also to register those coordinates with county and state officials.
The Department of Environmental Protection is directed under the bill to write regulations on an emergency basis to implement the bill.
This will allow quicker enforcement of the law, Baker said. Otherwise, the regulations would have to be reviewed by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission – a process that could take up to 18 months, she added.
By Robert Swift (Staff Writer)
Published: January 17, 2012
HARRISBURG – Marcellus Shale well operators would be required to provide sophisticated siting information and develop an emergency response plan under legislation moving close to final passage this week.
The wellsite safety bill sponsored by Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, is one of a few bills addressing Marcellus drilling that’s moving separately from comprehensive impact fee legislation that includes stronger regulation of drilling activities.
The measure requires operators to post signs at the wellsite bearing their GPS coordinates, give the coordinates to local, county and state emergency officials and develop response plans. The bill specifies this information is to be posted on reflective signs at both the access road entrance and well pad.
Baker, who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, developed the bill to ensure that firefighters, ambulance crews and hazmat teams know where wells are being planned and where the access roads are.
“The changes will reduce the risk for workers, first responders and the community when things go wrong,” she said.
This safety measure has been approved by both the Senate and House once. A vote scheduled today in the Senate Rules Committee should move the bill to a final vote on the Senate floor so it can be sent to Gov. Tom Corbett for signing.
As lawmakers return from a holiday recess, three-way negotiations continue privately between the Corbett administration and Republican-controlled House and Senate over the impact fee bill.
Meanwhile, the House Finance Committee scheduled a vote Wednesday on a bill sponsored by Rep. Sandra Major, R-Montrose, to earmark 5 percent of the rents and royalties paid to the state Oil and Gas Lease Fund from drilling on most state-owned land to a small stream improvement program run by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
This program oversees projects to reduce flooding, prevent stream bank erosion and restore degraded stream channels, all factors cited by state and local emergency officials recently as contributing to the destructiveness of last fall’s flooding in the Susquehanna River Basin.
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a legislative research agency, will hold a session Thursday on efforts to clean streams of debris and sediment. The meeting is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Sullivan County Conservation District, Route 487, Dushore.
“The listening session will allow us to hear from local officials and residents impacted by the flooding so that we can work to improve and enhance state regulations for stream maintenance,” said Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Towanda, who chairs the center.
Baker proposes bills on gas drilling, drinking water
Pa. senator says protection needed to ensure drilling doesn’t contaminate water.
By Steve Mocarsky firstname.lastname@example.org
May 25, 2010
The state senator representing the Back Mountain is proposing a series of bills to protect drinking water sources from contamination associated with natural gas drilling.
Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, said on Monday that the chances of water contamination grow as drilling into the Marcellus Shale increases in Pennsylvania, and the proposed bills are in response to citizen and community concerns about the safety of water resources.
“Prevention and protection are preferable to crisis management and emergency response,” Baker said.
EnCana Oil & Gas plans to drill two natural gas wells in the Back Mountain – one each in Lehman and Lake townships – and a third in the Red Rock area in Fairmount Township, not far from Ricketts Glen State Park.
The well site in Lehman Township is less than two miles from the Huntsville Reservoir.
Although there are proposed water protection regulations moving through the approval process, Baker said state law has “more force.”
And as drilling proceeds on a larger scale, “area residents want answers that show responsibility being assured, rather than risks being assumed,” Baker said.
“Reasonable environmental protections will not discourage the development of this industry; they will help to make sure that unreasonable costs are not imposed on local communities and homeowners,” she said.
In order to protect aquifers and determine any adverse consequences attributable to drilling, one bill would require testing at three times – before drilling, at the completion of drilling, and six months afterwards – at three different depths.
A second bill would rule out drilling at sites too close to drinking water sources such as reservoirs.
A third bill would require the state Department of Environmental Protection to ensure that operators of wastewater treatment facilities are properly trained and sufficiently monitored to lessen the chances of human error creating a major problem.
Baker said some of the costs would be borne by the gas companies.
Oversight costs could be paid for through a severance tax, which is expected to be debated in the coming weeks.
She reiterated her opposition to any severance tax plan that would devote the revenue generated to filling a hole in the state budget rather than providing for community protection in drilling areas.
“The environmental and economic catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico underscores the crucial nature of taking all reasonable precautions and for being prepared for dealing with extreme situations when things go horribly wrong,” Baker said.
Steve Mocarsky, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7311.