Houston — As it had previously indicated, the Marcellus Shale Coalition on Friday filed suit to block implementation of some of the new rules the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection implemented on Saturday, claiming the rules would add an average of $2 million to every well drilled in the state with little environmental benefit.
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The suit, filed in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, challenges aspects Chapter 78a of the Pennsylvania Code, which regulates many aspects of unconventional gas drilling and which was published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin and went into effect on Saturday.
"This approach, which we had hoped we would not have to pursue, was necessary to assert the legal rights of our members directly impacted by final rulemaking's provisions, which conflict with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's statutory authority as well as Supreme Court precedent," MSC President David Spigelmyer said in a statement Friday.
The suit marks the first time the coalition, which represents segments of the oil and gas industry active in the Marcellus Shale play, has taken direct legal action against a state entity.
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A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania DEP did not immediately respond to Platts' attempts to obtain a response to the filing.
"Pennsylvania's natural gas industry is governed by some of the nation's most stringent laws and regulations, and our members continue to follow all relevant Pennsylvania and federal environmental statutes and regulations," Spigelmyer said.
"To be absolutely clear, the MSC and its members support fair, consistent and clear regulation of the industry while protecting the environment and ensuring safety," he said.
"However, certain provisions conflict with DEP's legal authority granted by the Pennsylvania General Assembly while other provisions are vague and not clear how they will be implemented by the agency.
"In order to meet regulatory requirements, industry needs clear and unambiguous regulations that are consistent with the legislature's intent."
Among the provisions of the rules that the suit is challenging are those that deal with the disposal of wastewater from unconventional gas operations and those that require operators to conduct pre-drilling inspections of surrounding areas to discover the existence of any old abandoned wells that might serve as avenues for groundwater contamination.
The suit contends that such regulations, while costly to the industry, are unnecessary as they are duplicative of existing environmental regulations.
"These shortcomings are immediately harmful to our industry because they affect our ability to conduct business and remain competitive," Spigelmyer said.
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