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Regulators expect lawsuit over oil, gas rules process

State regulators expect a judge eventually will decide whether they followed the proper process in writing environmental rules for the conventional oil and gas industry.

“You’re going to sue us,” Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary Scott Perry told industry members during an advisory committee meeting Thursday in Harrisburg.

He and the Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee agreed to continue working on the latest draft of the rules because the department intends to enact them in some fashion.

“I appreciate the members … think the process is fundamentally flawed. But it’s still useful to have a conversation on it,” Perry said.

Gov. Tom Wolf directed the DEP to form the advisory group when it reworked an existing Technical Advisory Board that now focuses only on shale gas drilling. The conventional board, whose members work in or around the older industry devoted to traditional oil and gas drilling, is opposed to new rules they say are too burdensome for small operators.

The committee wrote a letter to DEP in July saying it would not support the rules.

Tension between members and DEP staffers was evident during the committee meeting from the start. The two sides could not agree on approving minutes from their first meeting in March.

Members said DEP officials unfairly accused them of holding a secret meeting to write the July letter, despite assurances in March that they need not advertise an official meeting for such decisions.

“We collectively do not feel we have violated the Sunshine Act or the charge of this committee and take offense to the idea we did,” said Burt Waite, a senior geologist with the firm Moody and Associates.

Members said the department was not properly calculating or considering the cost companies would incur to meet new rules.

Perry said the department made changes in the latest draft based on cost concerns raised by the industry, and that the department wanted to hear more concerns as it continues to meet with the committee.

The department has until spring to finalize two sets of rules — one for shale and one for conventional operations — aimed at protecting water and land around drilling sites and wells. The committee and the Technical Advisory Board provide feedback and advice; the state Environmental Quality Board will make the final decision.

In related news, Low prices, tough regulations threaten independent oil producers.

This article was written by DAVID CONTI from The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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