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Environment & Energy

Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee Grows

When the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection asked for public comment in December regarding rules about conventional oil and gas development, the department received an “unprecedented amount” of submissions.

That’s according to Scott Perry, deputy secretary of the department’s Office of Oil and Gas Management, who said tens of thousands of people reached out to the DEP, showing intense interest.

That’s why the DEP’s Acting Secretary, John Quigley, had to carefully choose who to place on the nine-member Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Board (COGAC), which will meet for the first time Thursday in Harrisburg.

Perry said the committee consists of five voting members.

“By law, one of the members has to be a coal mining engineer, one of the members is selected from a list provided to the governor by the Citizens Advisory Council, and the other three members can either be experienced drillers, petroleum engineers or geologists,” Perry said.

The Acting Secretary has also proposed four non-voting members, two of which work for government and two of which have experience with local government issues.

COGAC is a statutorily-created committee under the Oil and Gas Act.  Its goal is to increase transparency and communication about the regulation of the conventional oil and the gas drilling industry.

Jim Morrison, chief administrator of the Municipality of Murrysville and a proposed non-voting member, said the committee is in charge of taking a look at and revising the industry’s rules and regulations.

“They have the responsibility of interpreting the legislation and creating the rules for industry and for local governments to move forward,” Morrison said.

Morrison said he became interested in joining the committee because of oil development in his municipality.

“We’ve been heavily involved in the nonconventional oil development here,” Morrison said. “We also have conventional oil development historically in Murrysville, so it piqued my interest, and I offered my name.”

With conventional development, oil and gas are extracted from reservoirs while unconventional development uses techniques such as hydraulic fracturing of fracking.

Perry said the Pennsylvania legislature passed a fiscal code amendment requiring the DEP to promulgate conventional oil and gas development rules separately from the unconventional rules – prompting them to create COGAC.

The rules being examined have been under development for several years, and the initial concepts were presented to the Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board in 2011.

After Thursday’s meeting, public comment will, once again, be taken on the rules.

“We intend to bring the rule back to the Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee at the end of the summer when we’ve considered all of those new comments and proceed to finalize it through our Environmental Quality Board most likely in the winter of 2015,” Perry said.