DEP Issues 73 Marcellus Shale Drilling Permits

Acting Secretary John Hanger announced that the Department of Environmental Protection has issued 73 drilling permits for the Marcellus Shale formation that will protect water resources and could unlock tremendous new natural gas resources that lead to millions of dollars in new investments for 12 Pennsylvania counties, lower energy prices and reduced pollution through the increased supply of cleaner-burning fuel.

Hanger said DEP worked diligently to safeguard Pennsylvania's water resources as part of this development and to ensure that more citizens and communities could begin realizing the potential economic benefits the
Marcellus Shale formation holds.

"We recognize that there are incredible opportunities for the commonwealth in the Marcellus Shale, but realizing those gains cannot come at the expense of our natural resources," said Hanger. "The Marcellus formation could hold trillions of cubic feet of natural gas -- enough to help reduce the price of natural gas, which is a cleaner-burning fuel, and to create thousands of new jobs, as well as new income for property owners and communities across Pennsylvania.

"However, this can only be accomplished if it's done right. We're working to facilitate this development, but we're doing so in a manner that gives thorough consideration to the potential impacts each operation could have on our land and water resources. The permits we're issuing today apply to operations that have met consistent statewide rules to effectively manage the magnitude of water withdrawals for this kind of drilling technique."

This year, 257 permits have been approved for drilling in the Marcellus Shale, with 73 being approved since Aug. 15. In total, 518 permits have been approved for drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation since 2005.
Another 24 permit applications are under technical review by the department and awaiting comprehensive water management plans to safeguard the state's water resources.

The permits approved today include enhanced protections for Pennsylvania's water resources.

DEP worked with the Susquehanna and Delaware river basin commissions and the oil and gas industry to create a consistent statewide application process for Marcellus Shale drilling permits that requires gas well
operators to better protect water resources. Operators must provide additional information as part of the permitting process including the sources and locations of water to be used in the drilling process, anticipated impacts of drilling on water resources, and the locations of facilities where drilling fluids will be taken for treatment and disposal.

The Marcellus Shale is a rock formation that underlies much of Pennsylvania and portions of New York and West Virginia at a depth of 5,000 to 8,000 feet. Extracting natural gas from the formation requires a relatively new drilling process known as horizontal drilling, which uses far greater amounts of water than traditional natural gas exploration.

This water can originate from various sources including municipal suppliers or streams. Concerns about the effects of large water withdrawals on streams and aquifers have prompted the need to regulate planned withdrawals at drilling operations.

"Along with our duty to protect our natural resources, we have the responsibility and are committed to providing the industry with prompt reviews and timely decisions on all permit applications," said Hanger. "Until now, the vast majority of activity surrounding the Marcellus Shale has involved the purchase or leasing of mineral rights, but some drilling and exploration is underway and if these drilling companies find natural gas in the anticipated quantities, we expect drilling activity to increase dramatically and that will provide a significant boost to Pennsylvania's economy."