In His Own Words: PA DEP Regulator Separates Fact from Fiction on the Marcellus

Director of DEP’s bureau of oil and gas management addresses town hall audience in Northeast PA

CANONSBURG, Pa. – Producers of natural gas in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Marcellus Shale “have been building their wells to exceed our current regulatory standards,” the head of DEP’s bureau of oil and gas management told a Luzerne County audience earlier this month – and are relying on a technology to access these clean-burning resources that’s “been standard operating procedure in Pennsylvania since the ‘50s.”

Those were among the key messages delivered by Scott Perry two weeks ago, on hand to participate in a community forum on the Marcellus held at Misericordia University in Dallas. What follows are several additional excerpts from that event, along with a link to the video:

On the misconceptions he continues to encounter across the state:

“When I’m talking to folks about the Marcellus, they try to point out some of its unique characteristics: ‘Well, Marcellus is different than all of these other wells; these are the deepest wells we have in the state.’ Well, that’s actually not true. We have over 11,000 permitted deeper wells in the Commonwealth; we have an entire statute devoted to regulating those wells.”

“Some of the other things they say … ‘It’s the fracking. Fracking is what makes the Marcellus Shale different than all other wells in Pennsylvania. But [fracking] has been standard operating procedure in Pennsylvania since the ‘50s and … almost 100 percent of the wells drilled in Pennsylvania have been hydraulically fractured using the same [materials] that are being used with the Marcellus today.”

On Marcellus producers’ commitment to sound well construction and integrity:

“I will tell you that the Marcellus operators have been building their wells to exceed our current regulatory standards; they’re building their wells in a manner that exceeds the [new] standards that we have actually proposed here, in many respects.”

On putting Marcellus water use in the proper perspective:

“While five million gallons [of water] sounds like a lot, in the overall scheme of things, it’s not. And in fact, this industry at its peak, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission estimates, it will be using less water than our golf courses and ski resorts; it’s going to be using less water than recreation.”

On the record of safety and performance associated with hydraulic fracturing:

“Just a note about fracking: First of all, it’s standard operating procedure in Pennsylvania. And it’s important to point out that we’ve never seen an impact to fresh groundwater directly from fracking.”

“If there was fracturing of the producing formations that was having a direct communication with groundwater, the first thing you would notice is the salt content in the drinking water. It’s never happened. After a million times across the country, no one’s ever documented drinking water wells that have actually been shown to be impacted by fracking.”

“A lot of folks relate the situation in Dimock to a fracking problem. I just want to make sure everyone’s clear on this – that it isn’t. What happened in Dimock was that a company was drilling in the Marcellus, and they encountered a shallow gas producing formation … which is common in this area of Pennsylvania. … It wasn’t a fracking problem.”

“How many wells has fracturing damaged? I assume you’re referring to ‘how many drinking water wells.’? And in our experience, it’s been zero.”