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Environmental Quality Board Adopts Chapter 78/78a Rulemaking

On February 3, 2016, the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB) adopted significant revisions to the Commonwealth’s oil and natural gas regulations by a vote of 15 to 4.  EQB’s vote formally splits current Chapter 78 (Oil and Gas Wells) into new Chapter 78 (Conventional Oil and Gas Wells) and Chapter 78a (Unconventional Wells).  Most of the significant revisions in the rulemaking package address Subchapter C (Environmental Protection Performance Standards), but the final rulemaking amends other Subchapters within Chapter 78 as well.  Specifically, the revisions would alter or create new obligations for permit applications and renewals, water supply replacement, predrilling surveys and reviews, erosion and sediment control, water management plans, emergency response plans, wastewater management, disposal of drill cuttings, site restoration, spills and releases, and production reporting.  In addition, the rulemaking includes 25 different requirements for electronic applications, electronic notifications, and electronic submittals.

Several amendments were offered from the floor but defeated.

If the rulemaking successfully completes review at the Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission, the appropriate legislative standing committees, and the Attorney General’s Office, the revisions will become effective upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.