Fracking fight now in Pennsylvania courts

A drilling rig is set up near a barn in Springville, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
A drilling rig is set up near a barn in Springville, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The nationwide fight by the oil and gas industry to block efforts to step up regulations in light of a historic drilling boom the past decade is now in the Pennsylvania courts.

According to a report by the The Philadelphia Inquirer, an industry group named the Marcellus Shale Coalition filed a motion Thursday to block the state’s Department of Environmental Protection from implementing new drilling rules five years in the works.

The Inquirer reported the rules, which only apply to so-called unconventional wells, as follows:

“The new performance standards at oil- and gas-well sites ban open-air waste-storage pits, establish minimum distances that wells must be from schools and playgrounds, and add new rules for monitoring wells and cleaning up spills. The rules presume that any water contamination near a new well is the driller’s fault.

They also set 100 feet as the general setback distance of a well from water resources, as well as requiring notification of state agencies if a well is within 200 feet of a public park or forest, and notification of a water utility if it is within 1,000 feet of an extraction point for public water.”

Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry, which has turned the Marcellus Shale into the country’s most productive gas field through hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, is arguing the rules would harm their business and make them less competitive – increasing their costs by 30 percent or $2 million per well.

The state is arguing the new drilling rules represent a necessary update , according to the Inquirer:

Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said last week that the revisions “increase protection for public resources and water supplies, improve data transparency, enhance access to relevant information for the public, and help provide business certainty to the industry.”