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State Environmental Group Takes Act 13 and puts it in “Plain English”

Act 13 is the recently-passed law that regulates oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania. There are many provisions within it, including impact fees for counties, chemical disclosure regulations, and where energy development can take place. But, it's a legislative document and is therefore long and sometimes hard to understand. That's where Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) comes in. The non-profit environmental advocacy group has released a plain-language guide and analysis.

"There was extensive misinformation, even from persons that voted on the law, about what it contains. Our goal here was to take an unbiased — as unbiased as possible — approach to translating from legal language into plain language so it would be a useful tool to everyone across the spectrum," said George Jugovic, president and CEO of PennFuture.

The full report, which can be found on the group's website, breaks down Act 13 into a question and answer format:

Does the operator need to notify anyone before drilling begins?

The landowner, local municipality, and DEP are to receive 24-hours notice before drilling begins. The DEP also receives 24-hours notice before certain critical activities take place on the well, such as cementing of casing strings. 3211(f).

For how long are permits valid?

The operator must start drilling within one year of issuance, unless the permit is renewed. Once the well has been drilled, the permit is valid until the well is plugged. 3211(h).

"This report was reviewed by our law staff — several attorneys on our law staff — so it's been through several layers of review, so we're confident that it's accurate and helpful to the public," said Brian Glass, chief of law staff for PennFuture.

The group said it wanted to break down the law to increase understanding of how the Marcellus Shale industry is being regulated. Jugovic said it's a relatively new industry, but will be an incredibly important industry for this and future generations, and added the impacts are going to be far-reaching, both in a good way and also potentially, in a bad way.

"This is our legislature's very first attempt to get their hands around how they want to regulate this industry as it grows, in order to protect health and the environment," said Jugovic, "and people ought to be able to understand what that means."