Pennsylvania Regulators Aim to Improve Consistency in Oil & Gas Inspections and Enforcement

This post was written by David Wagner.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released its findings yesterday on improving DEP’s statewide consistency when conducting site inspections at well sites, enforcing DEP regulations and tracking compliance. DEP also released a new Surface Activities Inspection Report that will be used statewide when conducting surface-related inspections or investigation activities. DEP indicated that it is simplifying the electronic data entry system used for violations, known as eFACTS, and developing a field manual for staff. Moreover, plans are in the works to increase the number of compliance staff in each region’s Office of Oil and Gas Management and to provide the industry with additional compliance assistance information.

As part of the initiative, members of an internal DEP review team from Harrisburg and the regional offices (Southwest, Northwest and North Central) that regulate oil and gas activity tracked and evaluated inspection data and enforcement actions taken for Marcellus activities statewide from January 18, 2011 to June 24, 2011. Inspection records were examined to identify trends in the number of inspections completed, violations found, and the type of violations noted. For that five month period from January to June, here’s some of the data the review team reported:

  • During the time period, DEP water quality specialists performed 4,157 inspections of Marcellus Shale exploration and production sites.
  • Broken down by region, the inspections were as follows:
    • North Central – 2727 total inspections
    • Southwest – 1101 total inspections
    • Northwest – 329 total inspections
  • During time period, 324, or 7.79%, of the inspections resulted in on-site violations. By region, here’s the breakdown:
    • North Central – 269 (9.86%)
    • Southwest – 38 (3.45%)
    • Northwest – 17 (5.17%)
  • Of the overall inspections with violations noted, a total of 633 individual violations in all three regions were found on-site. The five most often identified violations were:
  1. Improper storage, transportation, processing or disposal of residual waste (83 violations
  2. Poor erosion and sediment controls (79 violations)
  3. Lack of capacity in pits or tanks (55 violations)
  4. Lack of pollution prevention measures (36 violations)
  5. Defective, insufficient or improper casings (36 violations)
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