Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

State taking steps to prevent Marcellus Shale accidents

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed a bill into law that will help protect Marcellus Shale workers.

Currently, well operators drill many of the Marcellus gas wells in areas without addresses. Some wells - 182 - are not even listed on the Marcellus Shale permit list. According to State Representative Brandon Neuman, D-North Strabane, "It's very important for our local first responders to get to know where the drilling is going on. . . A lot of the wells are in uncharted territory." The regulations will hopefully help workers who face serious injuries after Marcellus Shale explosions and other accidents.

The new bill would require state regulators to create emergency regulations for well operators, including regulations requiring operators to:

  • Register GPS coordinates for all unconventional wells in the state
  • Place a reflective sign at each well with the GPS coordinates, well address and emergency contact number
  • Develop an emergency response system

Pennsylvania was one of only two states that produced natural gas and did not enforce federal safety rules. Furthermore, the state safety laws in existence were not created with these wells in mind - the extent of the horizontal drilling is far greater than originally expected. According to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), there have been 4,000 Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale wells drilled since 2008.

Now, the state is acting to create safety standards. For example, in late 2011, a new law went into effect that authorized the Public Utility Commission to enforce the federal safety rules.

Marcellus Shale well accidents - explosions, fires, vehicle accidents, etc. - have injured many workers in Pennsylvania. The drilling can also have an effect on the environment, which can endanger those who live near the Marcellus Shale wells. For example, in 2010, there was a blowout that sent natural gas and toxic wastewater into the air.

Hopefully, the new safety measures will protect workers and prevent future accidents.

Source: Canon-McMillan Patch, "Corbett Signs Marcellus Shale Emergency Response Plan Bill," Amanda Gillooly, Feb. 3, 2012.

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