The Marcellus Shale region covers up to 60 percent of the Commonwealth and all of the 111th District, which is why this is such an important issue for the residents of my district. As this industry develops, it is my goal to ﬁght for the interests of everyone I represent, some of whom have already leased lands, are in the process of leasing or are opposed to drilling.
To that end, I have taken part in several public hearings investigating the drilling process and what measures are in place to ensure the safety of our public drinking water resources. We, in the Legislature, are currently reviewing Pennsylvania laws and regulations relating to natural gas drilling. Pennsylvania’s Oil and Gas Act was written decades ago, when the type of technology being used in today’s drilling operations was not available. We know deeper drilling, horizontal drilling and the process of frack- ing will require new laws and regulations, but until we take stock of what we currently have on the books, we cannot assess what our needs are.
I also voted in favor of a moratorium on leasing any additional state forest lands for natural gas drilling. House Bill 2235, which passed the House, would place a three-year moratorium on leasing additional state forest lands for natural gas drilling and exploration. This legislation also requires a study of the environmental, economic and societal impacts of leasing state lands for this industry. Leases already entered into by the Commonwealth would not be impacted by this legislation. is legislation is still awaiting the consideration of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
Natural gas drilling has the potential of being a big economic driver in the state and could create thousands of new jobs; how- ever, we need to make sure the proper safety measures and regulations are in place and that our environment is properly protected.
The following is a sampling of legislation being considered by the General Assembly in regard to the natural gas drilling indus- try, including my House Bill 2276:
•House Bill 2276 – Current Pennsylvania law requires that a property owner who signs a gas/oil lease must receive a minimum royalty payment of one-eighth or 12.5 percent. My legislation will extend the Oil and Gas Conservation Law to development within the Marcellus Shale formation, and would also exclude production costs from being deducted from royalty payments, ensure that horizontal drilling is not conducted under any lands where a lease between a landowner and a well operator does not exist, and provide a deﬁnition for a lease.
•House Bill 208 – This legislation provides for oil and gas leasing and extraction activity on Clean and Green land. It states that drilling and extraction be limited to one acre and roll-back taxes are only imposed on that one acre. Remaining eligible land continues to be assessed at the preferential value.
•House Bill 1205 – This legislation extends the presumption of liability on the part of a well operator for damage to a water supply within 2,000 feet of a well in lieu of the current 1,000 feet; extends the time frame for when the damage was to have occurred to 24 months from the current six months; and requires the well operator conduct a test of water supplies within 2,000 feet of a well operation prior to drilling, and to conduct, upon a landowner or water purveyor’s request, up to two follow-up tests within a 24-month period after production has commenced.
•House Bill 2609 – This legislation provides for a one-year moratorium on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation in order to provide additional time to enact appropriate laws and regulations safeguarding health and safety.
•House Bill 2630 – This is legislation provides for notiﬁcations of well drilling operations to landowners within 5,500 feet of a proposed well. It also requires additional information to accompany the well permit application, such as an estimate on the time of travel a ﬂuid release may take to reach the nearest waterway, and an emergency preparedness plan. It prohibits well drilling within 3,000 feet of a reservoir serving as a community drinking water source and prohibits horizontal drilling under such a reservoir. It would require notiﬁcations to public water suppliers and a requirement to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing ﬂuids.
Furthermore, as part of the state budget agreement, the governor has asked that the General Assembly meet prior to Oct. 1 to discuss a possible severance tax on the natural gas drilling industry. For updates, please visit my website,.