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Trenchless Technologies Resource Page

This webpage provides a centralized collection of information related to trenchless installation methods that project proponents may use to assist them in avoiding impacts to the environment. The goal is to provide best practices applicable to a wide variety of industries for protection of the environment and public safety at the various stages of trenchless development and operation. This includes strategies for planning, permitting, construction and operation.

The demand for underground infrastructure to transport water, wastewater, stormwater, natural gas, oil, and power continues to grow nationwide. Across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, there are operators working to make these infrastructure improvements and services more broadly available to homes and businesses. Operators are routinely employing trenchless technologies in their design and construction practices. As Pennsylvania continues to undergo a substantial underground infrastructure build-out the development of guidance is needed to ensure the safety of the environment and human health.

A successful infrastructure installation utilizing trenchless technologies requires ample data be gathered and incorporated into its design from both surface and subsurface features. Furthermore, trenchless installation requires sufficient information be gathered to reasonably anticipate the obstacles that may be encountered and how those obstacles are going to be managed before, during, and after construction.

The information contained on this page is not meant to supersede any permit requirements. Instead it provides strategies for environmental protection, public safety, coordination, training, contractor screening, and stewardship meant to aid in meeting permit requirements. The information gathered here has been assembled through collaborative efforts between the following:

  • The Bureau of Waterways Engineering and Wetlands
  • The Bureau of Clean Water
  • The Bureau of Oil and Gas
  • The Regional Permit Coordination Office
  • Technical Experts from various industries

Trenchless Technology Technical Guidance Document

On July 26, 2018, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) assembled two stakeholder workgroups as part of a settlement of litigation with the Clean Air Council, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and Mountain Watershed Association (Appellants) for DEP’s permits issued for the Mariner East II Pipeline Project.  The workgroup(s) consisted of a balanced group of appropriate stakeholders that represented the interests of the Appellants, DEP, and select other entities, chosen by DEP, representing the interests of proponents for the potential development of draft policy, procedure, and/or guidance documents.

DEP decided that two Stakeholder Workgroups would be necessary to produce guidance related to two specific technical matters related to the settlement:

  1. Alternatives Analysis
  2. Trenchless Technology

The Alternatives Analysis Technical Guidance Document was published for public comment in October 2021 and is currently being revised to address those comments.  Once it has been finalized it will be available on the Bureau of Waterways Engineering and Wetlands webpage.

The Trenchless Technology Technical Guidance Document is still under preparation.  It is currently being reviewed and prepared for public comment. It is anticipated that the document will be available for public comment in early 2022. 

Once completed, the Trenchless Technology Technical Guidance Document will:

  1. Provide guidance on the DEPs requirements for use of any trenchless technology installation method.  
  2. Outline the steps and options to consider, and implement as appropriate, when proposing to use a trenchless technology installation method on any portion of a project.
  3. Inform the regulated community regarding the level of analysis that may be necessary for a project to demonstrate compliance with applicable regulations, including 25 Pa. Code 78a.68a (relating to horizontal directional drilling for oil and gas pipelines).  
  4. Affect all permit applications that propose the use of trenchless technology. It affects a cross section of all types of business and governmental units proposing structures and activities that impact Regulated Waters of this Commonwealth.  
  5. Standardize the information gathered, analyzed, and presented as part of a permit application and is intended to improve, and make consistent, the preparation of PPC plans. 

Overall, the implementation of this TGD should reduce Inadvertent Returns, reduce impacts to water supplies, improve consistency in PPC plans, and reduce conflicts between the applicant and Department.