Good News! PA DEP Extends Chapter 78 Comment Period, Adds Hearings in Bradford and Warren Counties

Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA  17120
01/22/2014
CONTACT:
Lisa Kasianowitz, Department of Environmental Protection
717-787-1323
EQB Extends Public Comment Period, Holds Two Additional Public Hearings on Proposed Oil and Gas Regulations 

HARRISBURG — The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) announced today that the public comment period and series of public hearings on the proposed oil and gas surface activities regulation will be extended.

“One of the clear messages we’ve been getting through this hearing and comment process, from both industry and environmental groups, is that we should hold additional hearings and extend the comment period,” DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo said. “Public participation is a key component when crafting these regulations, and we are happy to accommodate this extended period.”

The public comment period, originally scheduled to end on Feb. 12 is extended for 30 days to March 14.

Two additional public hearings will also be held, both beginning at 6 p.m. Dates and locations for the additional hearings are as follows:

• Feb. 10: Troy High School, 150 High St., Troy, PA 16947
• Feb. 12: Warren County Courthouse, 204 4th Ave., Warren, PA 16365,

“Nine public hearings and a total of 90 days for public comment is unprecedented; we are committed to understanding the concerns of all Pennsylvanians on this important state regulation,” Abruzzo said.

The hearings are being held by the EQB for the purpose of accepting comments on a proposed regulation for environmental protection performance standards associated with oil and gas activities. The EQB is a 20-member independent board that adopts all DEP regulations and considers petitions to change regulations.

Members of the public wishing to present verbal testimony are requested to contact the EQB to reserve time by either calling 717-787-4526 or using the address listed below. Those who are not able to sign-up in advance of the hearing will be given the opportunity to sign-up at the hearing and will be called upon to speak after those who pre-registered. All relevant written and oral comments that are received at a public hearing will be considered when finalizing the regulation.

Witnesses are limited to five minutes of testimony and are requested to submit three written copies of their testimony to the hearing chairperson at the hearing. Organizations are limited to designating one witness to present testimony on their behalf at each hearing.

Individuals in need of accommodations as provided for in the Americans with Disabilities Act should contact the EQB to discuss their needs at 717-787-4526 or make accommodations through the Pennsylvania AT&T Relay Service at 800-654-5984 (TDD) or 800-654-5988 (voice users).

Members of the public who are unable to attend the hearing will have several other options for submitting their comments on the proposed regulations.

Online Comments
Comments and a one-page summary may be submitted to EQB by accessing the EQB’s Online Public Comment System athttp://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/RegComments.

Written Comments
Written comments and summaries should be mailed to Environmental Quality Board, P.O. Box 8477, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8477.

The summaries and a formal comment and response document will be distributed to the EQB and available publicly prior to the meeting when the final rulemaking will be considered.

Email Comments
Comments may also be submitted via e-mail to RegComments@pa.gov. If an acknowledgement of comments submitted online or by email is not received by the sender within two business days, the comments should be re-sent to the EQB to ensure receipt.

All public comments must be submitted to the EQB regarding the proposed rulemaking by March 14, 2014.

To view materials for the proposed regulation, visit www.dep.state.pa.us and click the “Proposed Oil and Gas Regulations” button.

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Chapter 78 Oil & Gas Regulations Letter to Pennsylvania DEP Requesting Expanded Comment Period

Thanks to all who signed on to the letter during this busy holiday time! 

The letter to PA DEP was sent this morning, January 2, 2014. The final letter with all signatures is found below, or you can click here: Letter Expanding Hearings PADEP Ch 78 Final 1-1-14 to view or download. 

Finally tally: 59 signatures, among them 16 citizens from Bradford County.

We will keep you posted on the DEP’s response.  

January 1, 2014

Kurt Klapkowski, Director, Planning and Program Management

Scott R. Perry, Deputy Secretary, Office of Oil and Gas Management

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Rachel Carson Office Building

400 Market St, 16th Floor

Harrisburg, PA 17105

Cc: Chris Abruzzo, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Dear Mr. Klapkowski and Mr. Perry:

The undersigned Pennsylvania residents and interested organizations look forward to providing feedback during the public comment period and public hearings regarding the regulatory draft proposal amending 25 Pa. Code Chapter 78, Subpart C. We respectfully make the following requests for modification of the public participation process.

Need for Additional Public Hearing Locations

We recognize that DEP scheduled hearings in each DEP Region across the state. It seems that in planning the advertised public hearings, DEP attempted to identify central locations that could potentially accommodate multiple surrounding areas. However, we strongly urge the scheduling of additional public hearings in counties where oil and gas development is most prevalent and has had a significant impact. Currently, communities in 38 counties across the Commonwealth have shale gas development; yet hearings are currently scheduled only in seven, two of which do not have any drilling at all.

Additional hearings would allow residents living in communities directly affected by gas development to share their concerns and provide information relevant to determining measures needed to change and oversee industry practices. The Department must hear, gather, and give credence to the real-life impacts of waste storage, brine–spreading, pipeline development, and other issues addressed in the proposed Chapter 78 revisions. Otherwise, DEP risks the development of regulations on paper that do not in reality protect the environment and health.

In addition, topography and rural roads mean that citizens in heavily-drilled communities may have to travel relatively far to reach the current hearing locations. Many residents run family farms and small businesses that prevent them from traveling that far from home in the evening.

The final public hearing is scheduled for January 23, yet the deadline to submit comments is February 12. With this current schedule, there is an opening of two weeks where additional public hearings in these locations could be scheduled. There would be an even greater opportunity to schedule more hearings with an extended comment period, as discussed below.

We strongly encourage DEP to include—as examples and at a minimum, with other locations also to be considered—the following two additional locations in the hearing schedule.

Bradford County has more drilled unconventional gas wells than any other county in Pennsylvania. Development has surged since 2008, when there was only one active unconventional gas well in the county; today, there are well over 1,000. Bradford County citizens and local officials have direct experience that is relevant to improving the regulation and management of oil and gas development throughout Pennsylvania. Between 2010 and 2012, DEP’s investigations concluded that 13 cases of groundwater contamination were linked to unconventional gas well development activity. In 2010, the DEP determined that stray gas migration from an unconventional gas well resulted in methane leaks in the Susquehanna River and the drinking water wells of homes as much as two and a half miles away. As one of the earliest drilling locations, Bradford County is now experiencing a new phase of infrastructure development, particularly with regard to pipelines.

Importantly, a hearing in Bradford County would facilitate the participation of residents in heavily drilled neighboring Tioga County, which currently has 770 unconventional wells (most of which have been drilled just since 2010) and is even further away from currently scheduled hearing locations.

Butler County has seen a surge in gas development since the shale gas boom began and now has more unconventional wells drilled than any other county in the Northwest Region. The county is also slated to be a heavily developed drilling area in the coming years, particularly because of its proximity to infrastructure and gas liquids processing facilities being planned in nearby areas.

Butler County is also home to the Woodlands community, where many residents have experienced both water quality and quantity problems. Emerging research indicates that likely causes include the density of drilling, extensive reach of laterals, and potentially changes in the flow of the water table due to hydraulic fracturing. Given the widespread nature of problems already experienced and the large number of wells currently drilled or being planned, Butler County residents would benefit greatly from, and have much to contribute to, a hearing in closer proximity.

Need for an Extended Comment Period

Given the in-depth nature and importance of the Chapter 78 revisions, we also request that the comment period be extended to 120 days to allow sufficient time for the technical analysis and public review. This is in part necessary because the proposed revisions were issued just before the winter holiday season, and in part because an extended comment period would allow for greater participation from residents statewide who are unable to travel to hearings.

An extended comment period is also important in light of the recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision declaring portions of Act 13 unconstitutional. This ruling will have a bearing on such regulatory provisions as oil and gas well and facility setbacks and DEP’s approach to evaluating the impact of proposed projects on public resources. The public and specific stakeholders engaged in the Chapter 78 process deserve additional time to understand and comment on linkages between proposed regulations and a legal decision that is of great importance to the Commonwealth.

Need for an Inclement Weather Plan with Alternate Hearing Dates

Greatly complicating the distance citizens will have to travel to the hearings is the potential for severe weather conditions (such as heavy snow and icy roads) that are typical for Pennsylvania in January and February. The DEP has not provided for an inclement weather plan in the Chapter 78 public participation process; as a result, if hearings are cancelled as a result of severe weather the public will be prevented from having a chance to participate in person. We request that the DEP develop and implement a plan for inclement weather that includes alternate dates for scheduled public hearings.

Need to Modify Requirements for Verbal Testimony Given at Hearngs

Currently, the DEP is requiring those seeking to give verbal testimony at public hearings to contact the Environmental Quality Board via mail or phone at least one week in advance of the hearing in order to reserve a time. Those giving verbal testimony are also required to present the hearing chairperson with three copies of their testimony at the time of the hearing.

We request that the DEP modify this requirement in order to accommodate citizens who attend the hearing with verbal testimony but who did not contact the Board one week in advance. We request that the Board use a simple sign-in procedure at the beginning of the hearings that would allow for the orderly presentation of all remaining verbal testimony immediately after the pre-scheduled verbal testimony is completed.

Those who were unaware of the need to have three copies of their testimony should be provided up to a week after the meeting to provide the chairperson of the hearing and the Board with those copies. In addition, we strongly encourage the DEP to use a court stenographer and arrange for a separate audio recording of all hearings in order to facilitate the creation of a comprehensive public record of all testimony received.

Satisfying these requests would provide the opportunity for “people’s voices to be heard,” as Secretary Chris Abruzzo advocated for in DEP’s December 12, 2013 Press Release on the Chapter 78 regulatory revisions.

Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to your response, and of course the opportunity to participate in the public participation process.

Sincerely,

Dianne Arnold, Marcellus Outreach Butler, Butler County

Barbara Arrindell, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Wayne County

David Buck, Bradford County

Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network (statewide)

Sarah Caspar, Chester County

J. Stephen Cleghorn, PhD, Owner, Paradise Gardens and Farm, Jefferson County

Dr. Larysa Dyrszka, Sullivan County, NY

Julie Edgar, Organizer, Lehigh Valley Gas Truth, Lehigh County

Elaine Lapp Esch, Lancaster County

Lynda Farrell, Executive Director, Pipeline Safety Coalition, Chester County

Karen Feridun, Founder, Berks Gas Truth Berks County

Carol French, Bradford County

Trudy Gerlach, Bradford County

Deborah Goldberg, Managing Attorney, Earthjustice (national)

Carrie Ha, Coordinator, Fracking Truth Alliance, Lawrence and Mercer Counties

Bryn Hammarstrom, Tioga County

Tom Hart, Butler County

Laura H. Hewitt, Bradford County

Lily Mariah Hollister, Bradford County

Marilyn Hunt, Wetzel County, WV

Steve Hvozdovich, Marcellus Shale Campaign Coordinator, Clean Water Action (statewide)

Paul Karpich, Co-chair, Breathe Easy Susquehanna County

Susan Karty, President, Pennsylvania League of Women Voters (statewide)

Virginia Kellogg, Bradford County

Joanne Kilgour, Chapter Director, Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter (statewide)

Abby Kinchy, Associate Professor, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Bradford County

Carolyn Knapp, Bradford County

Lois Klotz, Bradford County

Jenny Lisak, Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air, Jefferson County

Richard A. Martin, Coordinator, PA Forest Coalition (statewide)

Keith A. McDonough, Friends of South Fayette, Allegheny County

Daniel R. Natt, Bradford County

Shellie Northrup, Bradford County

Greg R. Perry, Bradford County

Julie T. Perry, Bradford County

Ann Pinca, Lebanon County

Joni Rabinowitz, Allegheny County

Raina Rippel, Director, Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, Washington County

Rebecca Roter, Co-chair, Breathe Easy Susquehanna County

Sheila Russell, Bradford County

Bob Schmetzer, Chairman, Marcellus Awareness Committee, Beaver County

Vera Scroggins, Citizens for Clean Water, Susquehanna County

Briget Shields, Marcellus Protest, Allegheny County

Douglas Shields, Allegheny County

Diane Sipe, Marcellus Outreach Butler, Butler County

Kate Sinding, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council (national)

Ron Slabe, Upper Burrell Citizens Against Marcellus Pollution, Westmoreland County

Wayne and Angel Smith, Bedford County

Nadia Steinzor, Eastern Program Coordinator, Earthworks (national)

Jay Sweeney, Chair, Green Party of Pennsylvania (statewide)

Victoria Switzer, Susquehanna County

Mark Szybist, Staff Attorney, Penn Future, Lycoming County

Betty Tatham, Vice President, League of Women Voters Pennsylvania (statewide)

Steven Todd, Dauphin County

Ruth Tonachel, Bradford County

John Trallo, Executive Committee, Shale Justice Coalition, Sullivan County

Matt Walker, Community Outreach Director, Clean Air Council (statewide)

Diane Ward, Bradford County

Don Williams, Montgomery County

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Make sure the Department of Environmental Protection hears your voice!

Please use the contact form on this page to let us know by January 1, 2014 if you’d like to sign on to this important letter!
On December 14, 2013 the PA DEP proposed changes to Chapter 78 oil & gas regulations. More about these proposed regulations can be found here: CHAPTER 78 Proposed Oil and Gas Regulations. A direct link to a summary of the regulations is here: CHAPTER 78 Summary of Proposed Regulations.
The DEP will be holding seven public hearings and a comment period on these changes from now until February 12, 2014. While this is a great step towards improving transparency and public involvement, there is still a great need to hold these types of hearings in-person in areas that have already been heavily impacted by unconventional oil and gas developments.
It is important that DEP hear from those citizens who have direct knowledge and experience of these developments in their local community. We are sending a letter to DEP regarding the public participation process for the proposed changes to Chapter 78 oil & gas regulations. It asks the PA DEP to hold additional hearings in Bradford County and Butler County, extend the comment period, make the testimony sign up process easier, and have an inclement weather policy.
Please let us know by January 1, 2014 if you’d like to sign on by filling in the appropriate boxes below!
If you are an individual, please provide your full name and county. 
If you represent an organization, please provide your name, title, organization, and county.

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Meeting Sunday, March 20 in Wysox

On Sunday March 20th at 12:30 PM in the Wysox Fire Hall in Wysox PA, please join PLGAS (Pennsylvania Landowners Group for Awareness and Solutions) for a conversation with Tara Miexsell, a Silt, Colorado rancher and author. In conjunction with this discussion, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Center for Future Civic Media will be holding a short demo of two new citizen reporting tools, Wellwatch and Landman Report Card.

Tara Miexsell’s most recent book, “Collateral Damage,” is a compilation of experiences by residents, and her neighbors, of Garfield County, Colorado, who live at the epicenter of gas and oil development.The experiences she has chronicled, as well as her own, are the very experiences we in Bradford County, and throughout northeast Pennsylvania might be facing as we continue to experience booming energy development. If you have questions about what the future might hold for people in this region, questions about what environmental changes to expect, public health concerns, or questions about who will be accountable if your property or health is damaged by industrial development, please come, listen, and ask questions!

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Browntown Hearing Feb 10

Browntown Hearing February 10

There is a hearing that has great importance to us all. The Wyalusing Zoning Board is conducting a conditional use hearing for a project proposed by Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc., for three processing plants on 26 acres—asphalt, drilling mud and frack water. There was a hearing held on Wednesday, Dec. 1. The township supervisors later voted to reopen the hearing, with all statements made regarding the project transcribed for the record.

The new hearing is scheduled for February 10, 7 PM, in the supervisors’ meeting room in the township building on Route 6 just west of Wyalusing Borough.

While I do not live in Wyalusing Borough, this industrial complex, if approved will affect me. This is an industrial complex whose impact if only measured individually has major health implications, as noted in the documents we have posted here on this site. When taken in a cumulative measurement, which is not required by law, the impact is tremendous.

One only has to understand that this is all being proposed in close proximity to a public school, senior home, church and individual residences. One might say that what does it matter, it isn’t near me. But by allowing this to be granted without any opposition we are setting precedence for this to happen all over the region. Trust me this will be coming to an area near you soon. We all need to be organized and prepared to be able to counteract this assault. We can only do this if we partner together and stand in force. I urge any and all who view this as a negative impact, to show it and be there. One might argue that it has to go somewhere, but more thought, more studies and more understanding of the impacts that it will cause need to be done before the approval. We cannot rush into this, there is no room for mistakes.

12-1-10 Hawbaker Hearing Transcript

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“HAYNESVILLE” FREE SHOWING SUNDAY OCTOBER 3, 2010 TOWANDA, PA

Haynesville A Film by Gregory Kallenberg

Free showings on Sunday, October 3 @ 4:30 and 7:00 at the Keystone Theater on Main Street in Towanda, PA.  Showing will be followed by a moderated discussion.

Limited seating. Please call 717.245.1880 to make reservations.

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First Landowner Rights Meeting

Everyone Invited!

Monday, September 13, 2010

7 pm

Rome Fire Hall in Rome, PA (Bradford County)

Posted in Meetings | 3 Comments