On February 2, 2012, Governor Corbett signed into law unconventional gas well 911 emergency response legislation. The new law requires the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to adopt emergency regulations directing the operators of all unconventional wells in the Commonwealth to:

  • Adopt a unique GPS coordinate address for each unconventional well at both the access road entrance and the well pad site.
  • Register that address with PEMA, DEP and the local county emergency management organization.
  • Develop an emergency response plan to be filed with the state agencies and with the county emergency management organizations.
  • Post a reflective sign at the entrance to each unconventional well site with the address and coordinates of the site, and an emergency contact number for the operator.
The term “unconventional well” is defined to mean a natural gas well for production of gas from an unconventional formation. An “unconventional formation” is one below the base of the Elk Sandstone formation, or its equivalent, where natural gas cannot generally be produced economically except when the well bores are stimulated by hydraulic fracturing, use of multilateral well bores, or other techniques to expose more of the formation of the well bore.

The mandated regulations are required to apply to both new and existing unconventional wells. The new law is effective immediately, but the requirements are not effective as to gas well operators until the implementing regulations are promulgated. New DEP and PEMA regulations are expected to be published in the Pa. Bulletin within the next 30-45 days.