State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Safety rules for drilling sites pass in House, Senate

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jan 19, 2012 12:03 AM

A plan to standardize safety procedures at natural gas wells in Pennsylvania is headed to the governor for his signature. 


The state Legislature has approved a bill to make well site operators develop emergency plans and share them with local and state officials.  It would also require local agencies have latitude and longitude coordinates for well sites. 


“It really is about the basic rules of public safety with planning, sharing those emergency plans, and giving 911 the information at their fingertips in the event of an emergency,” said sponsoring Sen. Lisa Baker, a Republican of Pike County.


Read StateImpactPA’s story about first responders and Marcellus Shale drilling: “Pennsylvania firefighters prepare for ‘the big one.’”


Cory Angell, a spokesman for the state Emergency Management Agency, said many counties are already requiring drillers to take similar safety precautions, but it’s important to establish statewide standards.


“The drilling’s occurring in locations in the state that are very rural. There aren’t street addresses and so it’s very important to have those GPS coordinates.  That way, our first responders that are local to the area can get there and help save life and limb if necessary.”


Based on the latest public data, Range Resources has the most producing wells in Pennsylvania.  Matt Pitzarella, a spokesman for the company, said “virtually all” of its well operators already observe the safety rules.


“If you had, for instance, an employee or a worker who is injured on a location, you’re going to need to be able to get a lifeline helicopter there very quickly, and you’re going to need to have all that planned out in advance,” said Pitzarella.


The safety rules bill passed the state Senate unanimously Wednesday.   Baker said she expects Gov. Corbett to sign it into law. The rules would go into effect immediately thereafter.


In a written statement, Baker said the need for the rules is underscored by recent news the state doesn’t have a handle on exactly how many natural gas wells have been drilled or where they are.

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