Centre County state Rep. Scott Conklin has introduced three bills designed to better regulate oil and gas drilling and production in Pennsylvania.
"Natural gas drilling and extraction is a new industry in Pennsylvania. With any new industry, there are a great deal of unknowns, and the natural gas extraction industry is no exception," Conklin said. "We need to do all we can to make sure the public health and our environment are safeguarded as we venture further into this new industry."
Conklin's first bill (H.B. 880) would require well operators to provide public notice of their intent to drill in the area. Public notice would consist of an advertisement published in the local newspaper before the permit application is filed with the Department of Environmental Protection. The ad would run once a week for four consecutive weeks, and proof of publication would be required to be submitted with the permit application.
"As the natural gas industry continues to flourish in the state, it is essential the public be kept informed of the industry's drilling activities in our communities," Conklin said.
His second bill (H.B. 881) would create a statewide toll-free telephone number – 1-855-CALL-4GAS – for reporting suspected oil and gas violations. DEP would be responsible for the number's administration.
"DEP currently provides phone numbers for emergency reporting and general violations, but with this specific number, we can streamline the process and provide one, easy-to-use telephone number."
Conklin's third bill (H.B. 882) would create a special response team to address emergencies related to drilling and producing oil and gas wells.
"Due to the inherent dangers of well drilling, it is important that we have knowledgeable, certified response teams at the ready in case of an emergency," he said. "These experts can work with local first responders to ensure that any unforeseen problem is immediately and properly addressed while protecting not only the workers at the site, but also the residents in the surrounding community."
Under the bill, these response teams would be in place during exploration drilling and while the well is under construction. Team members would keep current with their training and be state certified, and would be responsible for informing local emergency personnel and the Department of Labor and Industry when an emergency occurs.
It is anticipated that all three bills will be sent to the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee for review.