On Thursday April 4, 2013, the Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission (“IRRC”) approved regulations implementing Act 9 of 2012, 35 Pa.C.S. § 7321, (“Act 9”) to require operators of unconventional wells to develop detailed emergency response plans for each well site in Pennsylvania and post specific signs at the entrance to access road to wells. The emergency response planning provisions become effective April 26, 2013, and the signage requirements become effective July 25, 2013.
Act 9 was passed on February 2, 2012, directing the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (“PEMA”) and the Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) to adopt regulations imposing emergency response requirement upon operators of unconventional wells. The new regulation was developed by DEP’s Environmental Quality Board (“Board”), and on January 26, 2013, the regulation was published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. See 43 Pa.B. 526. Most of the regulation became effective on January 26, 2013, including the provision that operators must register the GPS coordinates of unconventional wells with PEMA and DEP. See 25 Pa. Code § 78.55(f)(3)(iii). On February 22, 2013, the Board submitted the regulation to the IRRC. The IRRC’s April 4, 2013 Order clears the way for final adoption of the regulation.
Pursuant to the IRRC’s Order, 25 Pa. Code § 78.55(f)(5) requires operators to develop and implement an emergency response plan for each unconventional well site in Pennsylvania. Key elements of an emergency response plan include the operator’s emergency contact information (including a 24-hour emergency telephone number for the well operator); the operator’s response plan to a number of well site emergencies; the operator’s procedure to provide the most current information to emergency responders in the event of an emergency; a list of the emergency equipment at the well site and its location; a summary of risks and hazards to the public located within ½ mile of the well site; and an outline of the emergency response training plan at the site. Operators must review and update their emergency response plan on or before March 1 each year.1
In addition, 25 Pa. Code § 78.55(f)(4) requires operators to post a sign at the entrance of well access roads to assist emergency responders in locating well sites. The sign must display specific information including the GPS coordinates of the well.
After review of the proposed amendments, the IRRC determined the regulation “is consistent with the statutory authority of the Board and the intention of the General Assembly. Having considered all of the other criteria of the Regulatory Review Act, we find promulgation of this regulation is in the public interest.”
1 Note that Act 13, 58 Pa.C.S. § 3218.2(b), requires operators to develop a containment plan for each unconventional well site and file that plan with DEP. In light of the duplicative and non-duplicative Act 9 and Act 13 requirements, operators will want to consider how best to develop and maintain these plans.