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The Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) have begun work to plug 12 abandoned oil and gas wells in the Cornplanter State Forest, Forest County. The 12 wells, some of which are believed to have been in the forest since the 1920s, are located in Harmony Township. This is the first phase of a four-phase project in this area.
Old, decaying abandoned wells not only act as a significant source of climate-warming methane emissions, but in many cases, can leak oil and gas into water, soil and sometimes nearby homes, creating an explosion hazard.
Benefits associated with the Cornplanter project include:
- Conservation of approximately 1,260 acres of state forest land;
- Protection of cold-water fisheries that include Hunter Run, McCaferdy Run, Jamison Run, and Dawson Run;
- Reduction in methane emissions to the atmosphere;
- Protection of public trail users and valuable recreation areas including Hunter Run Trail System and Lashure Interpretive Trail;
- Increased opportunities for forest management; and
- Increased availability of public lands for healthy, outdoor recreation without risk of injury.
DCNR provided funding to the DEP Well Plugging Program to manage contracts to properly plug abandoned wells where no responsible party can be identified. DCNR bid the project and is responsible for overall project management and contract oversight, while DEP provided the technical specifications for the contract documents and also is providing on-site inspection services of the work. DCNR awarded the contract to Howard Drilling, LLC, of Mount Jewett, PA on January 4, 2021, and plugging work commenced on March 29, 2021. There are more than 1,735 known oil and gas wells on public lands that have no responsible owner and are eligible to be plugged under DEP’s Well Plugging Program. Statewide, there are more than 8,700 abandoned wells in Pennsylvania, but it is estimated that there are an additional 200,000 abandoned wells across the state.
DEP Oil and Gas Inspector Interviewed Regarding Plugging Abandoned Wells in Pennsylvania
“It is estimated there may be a few hundred thousand abandoned wells in Pennsylvania — some located in the woods, along riverbanks, in people's yards and even inside their homes. These wells are left behind — orphaned to the state — after their owners, often oil and gas companies, go bankrupt or when the wells fall into disrepair.” – CBS News Report by Jeff Berardelli
Read the story and watch the full report here
This map shows wells that have been plugged under Department of Environmental Protection contracts since 2018. Each plugging project poses unique challenges and risks. Over 8,000 additional wells are eligible to be plugged by DEP, however, funding limits these projects to a handful per year, generally based on imminent threat to public safety. DEP also executes plugging contracts on behalf of other state agencies using their funds. Projects funded by outside sources are noted in the description.
Order of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania dated January 6, 2021 in Marcellus Shale Coalition v. Department of Environmental Protection of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Environmental Quality Board of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Docket No. 573 MD 2016
– The Department provides notice of the January 6, 2021 Order of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania (Order), which clarifies the compliance deadlines in 25 Pa. Code § 78a.59c(a) (relating to centralized impoundments). The Commonwealth Court issued its Order in response to a Joint Application for Relief Requesting Clarification of the Compliance Deadlines in 25 Pa. Code § 78a.59c(a) filed by the Department, the Environmental Quality Board, and the Marcellus Shale Coalition in the case of Marcellus Shale Coalition v. Department of Environmental Protection of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Environmental Quality Board of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Commonwealth Court Docket No. 573 MD 2016. The Commonwealth Court’s Order directs the Department to publicize the Order in the Pennsylvania Bulletin; notifying the regulated community and public of the correct compliance dates. The Commonwealth Court’s Order extends the April 8, 2017 deadline from 25 Pa. Code § 78a.59c(a) to Monday, June 7, 2021 and extends the October 8, 2019 deadline to Monday, January 8, 2024. Click here to view the January 30, 2021, issue of the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
DEP published an important ESCGP-3 update in the July 11, 2020, PA Bulletin. These changes effect new and/or major modification notices of intent and go into effect September 9, 2020.
Learn more about this ESCGP-3 update.
On June 18, 2020, IRRC unanimously approved (5 members in favor, no members opposed) the DEP final form rulemaking to increase the unconventional well drilling permit fee.
Learn more about the Final Form Rulemaking.
(Final Guidance; substantive revisions) This document provides guidance to well operators for ensuring compliance with legal restoration and replacement of private water supplies adversely impacted by unconventional gas operations.
Review the Final Guidance Document in its entirety.
DEP has recently completed a comprehensive analysis of both regulatory requirements and an industry standards document updated in December 2018 relating to blowout preventer (BOP) function and pressure testing (American Petroleum Institute (API) Standard 53, Well Control Equipment Systems for Drilling Wells). In response to the analysis, the agency has rewritten a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document to align it with the current, best technical thinking associated with effective BOP testing measures. BOP equipment provides a last line of defense when an operator runs the risk of losing control of a well (uncontrolled flow of pressurized gas and liquids toward the surface).
The updated FAQ establishes that following the referenced API guidelines for both function and pressure testing, as written, are acceptable and provide superior safety measures. More specifically, the API guidelines provide consistent, system-wide testing procedures during BOP set-up, use, and transition to nearby wells on a multi-well pad. Further, the guidelines provide specific procedural steps that ensure comprehensive function and pressure testing at test intervals that have been fully vetted.
With the release of this FAQ, DEP has clarified that following API Standard 53 is consistent with the intent of the 2011 rulemaking language associated with 78a.72/78.72 (e) and (f), and would be in compliance with DEP’s regulations. The updated FAQ provides a transparent and clear mechanism for an operator to pursue a contemporary, superior BOP testing procedure, as allowed by the referenced regulations. In cases where an operator is proposing a method not consistent with the FAQ or the section 78a.72/78.72 testing requirements, DEP has also developed a new form, 8000-FM-OOGM0017, that can be used to document requests for DEP review and approval associated with modified BOP testing procedures. All of these new resources are available for reference and implementation, effective immediately.
Since the fall of 2018, the Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Oil and Gas Management (OOGM) has had two separate online applications available for the electronic submission of well permit applications. The older eWell application and the newer ePermitting application.
Effective January 1st, 2021, OOGM will discontinue the use of the eWell application for the electronic submission of new oil and gas well applications. As of this date, applicants must use the ePermitting application exclusively for the electronic submission of new applications to drill, alter, renew and/or operate an oil and/or gas well. Operators that have submitted applications through the eWell application prior to January 1, 2021, will still have access to eWell to complete those applications.
The PADEP has been developing the ePermitting application for several years and a number of well permit applications have been submitted and permitted through this application. The ePermitting application provides several benefits over the eWell application. The primary being that ePermitting is an enterprise application used for the electronic submission of permit applications to multiple programs within the PADEP, thereby providing common functionality to users across programs. Additionally, ePermitting is a GIS based system utilizing layer package and shapefile submissions rather than the DWG file submissions used by eWell. PADEP will continue to make improvements and enhancements to this application moving forward.
25 PA Code section 78a.15(a) requires all applications for unconventional well permits to be submitted electronically through its website. Well operators are highly encouraged to start familiarizing themselves with the ePermitting application functionality now. This OOGM web page provides information regarding the ePermitting application.
The web page provides the following:
e-Permitting Training (Use sub-surface links for drilling permit applications)
Greenport Access Information
GIS Examples (Please note, these are not DWG file formats as are currently used in the eWell application)
Note: Click link to download shapefiles to your computer.
Your Plat submittal in ePermit will contain both a pdf copy of what you used to notify interested parties, along with a layer package that contains the same information. The layer package is used for the technical review by the reviewer but is not made available for public consumption. The pdf and 5 shapefiles you submit are what the public will have access to for “file review” purposes for the plat information. Please look over the examples at your convenience.
If you have any questions regarding the ePermitting application, please contact the PADEP OOGM via email at RA-ep-BOGMOGRE@pa.gov.
DEP recently received a request regarding the use of newly formulated Class L cement in the construction and plugging of oil and gas wells. Joppa Class L cement is a low CO2 (lower environmental impact) oil well cement designed for normal slurry applications for cementing oil and gas wells. In 2019, the American Petroleum Institute (API) added the Class L designation to Annex B of Specification 10A. Class L composite well cement is manufactured by inter-grinding Portland cement clinker and one or more forms of gypsum with pozzolanic material. Fly ash, silica fume, and natural pozzolans all qualify as pozzolanic materials. API also allows the addition of suspension agents in Class L cements. The API Monogram is pending.
After review of available laboratory testing data, DEP has determined that the Class L blend of cement “meets or exceeds the ASTM International C 150, Type I, II or III Standard or API Specification 10” and also meets requirements of Section 78.85(a)(1)-(5) and 78a.85(a)(1)-(5) when used in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications and standards for well cementing. This determination has been made based on a detailed review of laboratory testing data for the blend and comparison of laboratory performance to Class A blends. Accordingly, operators may use the Class L blend to meet the requirements of Sections 78.85 and 78a.85. This determination applies for use in Pennsylvania at any oil and gas well sites, either previously permitted, in the process of permitting or at future permitted wells.
See Deputy Secretary Perry’s memo for details.