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Gas at a glance

SRBC opens field office in Bradford County, PA

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) has announced the launch of its first field office aimed exclusively at enhancing compliance through increased on-site inspections, particularly of natural gas well development projects in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions. The field office is located on 1760 Elmira Street, Sayre, Bradford County, PA. The location places SRBC’s compliance staff in and around the most active drilling areas in the upper basin region, allowing staff to follow up more quickly on problems reported by basin citizens in Pennsylvania and New York. The Sayre office is currently staffed by three SRBC compliance employees. Given that staff members are largely out in the field conducting inspections, interested public, industry officials or others wanting to meet with staff on compliance matters need to call for an appointment Monday through Wednesday at 570/731-4839 or by emailing Eric Roof, SRBC Director of Compliance and Enforcement, at srbc.net." target=_blank>eroof@srbc.net. Limited, set office hours that do not require prior appointment are on Tuesdays from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. For more information on SRBC’s regulation of natural gas well development projects or for information on all SRBC-approved projects and pending applications, go to SRBC’s website at srbc.net.

Wayne County Oil and Gas Task Force meets on May 13

In response to the emergence of natural gas exploration in the region, the Wayne County Oil and Gas Task Force was formed several months ago to examine the challenges and opportunities associated with this activity. A public presentation on the task force will be held on May 13 at 7:00 p.m. at the Wayne County Park Street Complex in Honesdale. The task force aims to bring representatives of many local organizations together to learn from the experiences of other communities, collect and distribute information to the public and serve Wayne County’s residents and businesses. The composition of the Wayne County Oil and Gas Task Force includes sub-committees on Workforce, Public Safety, Planning, Outreach, Government, Environment and Economic Development. Information on the task force is available at wcpaoilandgastaskforce.info or by contacting Edward J. Coar, chairman, Wayne County Oil and Gas Task Force at 570/253-5970 ext. 4060.

State officials seek more oversight of gas drilling

Pennsylvania’s two highest-ranking environmental officials recently advocated for imposing more taxes and regulation on Marcellus Shale exploration, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. At a two-day Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Policy Conference sponsored by Duquesne University and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, John Hanger, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), said that it was time for the state legislature to impose a production tax on gas operators. John Quigley, secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), said it was “folly” for the state legislature to rely on leasing public land for drilling to raise revenue. The Rendell administration is pushing a plan to impose a severance tax of about six percent on gas producers, as well as a package of regulations imposing stricter gas well construction standards and water discharge limitations. Hanger ridiculed the state’s 1984 law requiring gas operators to set aside a “pitiful” $2,500 insurance bond to pay for plugging an abandoned well, a procedure that costs the state about $10,000.

House approves compromise drill moratorium on state forest land, but Senate unlikely

A compromise proposal to impose a three-year moratorium on additional leasing of Pennsylvania’s state forest land for natural gas drilling won House approval on May 3. The amendment shortens the five-year moratorium originally proposed and provides for state studies of the environmental and socio-economic impact of Marcellus Shale drilling occurring on leased forest lands. About one-third of the 2.1 million acres of state forest land is currently under lease to commercial gas, oil and lumber firms. The bill has little chance of passing in the Senate though, according to a spokesperson for the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. “We do not anticipate taking up the moratorium on leases,” said committee executive director Patrick Henderson. The committee is chaired by Sen. Mary Jo White, R-21, of Venango County.

Bradford County, PA is in the process of transforming from a rural agricultural area to one characterized by the industrial landscape associated with natural gas exploration. The SRBC has opened a new office there to oversee related activities.
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