Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pa. to increase natural-gas drilling inspection staff

In December we cited a ProPublica report detailing how states were lagging in regulation of increased natural gas drilling. Now one of the states at the center of the boom is moving to catch up. Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell has "announced that the Department of Environmental Protection will nearly double its enforcement staff, open a new office closer to the drilling action and release new drilling regulations of its own," reports Sabrina Shankman of ProPublica, which has been bird-dogging the issue of hydraulic and chemical fracturing of gas reserves.

In 2008 Pennsylvania had just 35 people to oversee 74,774 wells, Shankman reports, but that number increased to 76 in 2009 as the industry grew. Rendell plans to add 68 more people to the Bureau of Oil and Gas Management, Shankman reports, and will pay for the expansion with revenue from drilling permit fees, which it raised last year for the first time since 1984. Rendell also proposed a severance tax on gas in his 2010-11 budget.

Forty-five of the new hires will be on the oil and gas enforcement staff, bringing the state's total to 121. Conversely, Texas, the nation's largest drilling state, "had an enforcement staff of 106 to oversee 263,704 wells, of which 16,569 were new and required the most oversight," Shankman writes. (Read more)

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