Do I need a Lawyer?
Yes. The assistance of a lawyer who is well versed in gas leasing is strongly recommended. Do not enter into a contract with a company without ample research and advice from a qualified attorney. You may be giving up certain privileges and ownership rights to your property. You are signing binding contracts, which will affect your rights for many years to come. An attorney who is knowledgeable in gas and mineral leasing can guide and help you throughout the negotiating process. There are many aspects of these contracts, including payment provisions, the location of wells, tanks and pipelines, access to your property and other terms.
What is DEP’s role in water supply protection?
The Oil and Gas Act of December 19, 1984 provides certain protections to public or private water supplies. The Act states that an oil or gas well operator who pollutes or diminishes a public or private supply shall restore or replace the water supply with an alternate source of water adequate in quantity or quality for the purposes served by the supply. Any landowner whose water supply is polluted or diminished as a result of the drilling activity may submit notice and request that the DEP conduct an investigation. Within 45 days of the request, the DEP will make a determination.
What is DEP’s role in regulating the oil and gas industry?
DEP enforces Pennsylvania’s oil and gas laws relating to resource management, well construction, drilling safety and waste management practices. Drilling companies must secure a bond before applying for a well permit. DEP approves bonds and well permits, inspects wells and environmental controls and permits and inspects waste disposal facilities and waste management activities. Operators must submit reports on well completion, waste management, annual production and well plugging. DEP has the authority to take action to enforce compliance with applicable laws and to seek penalties for violations of these laws.
Under the PA Clean Streams Act and appropriate authorities, DEP also regulates, and when applicable, permits, all earth disturbances, wetland and stream crossings or impacts and any other water quality impacts related to site development, pipelines, compressor stations, staging areas, road work, pipeyards or any similar activity. As a part of these regulations and permit reviews, threatened and endangered species locations and habitats must be reviewed and cleared by appropriate authorities.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is not involved in regulating lease agreements between mineral property owners and producers, except that minimum royalty payment is prescribed by law. Lease agreements are contractual matters between private parties. DEP does not audit payments, calibrate meters or tanks, or otherwise get involved in lease matters. Well operators are required to report production annually, and state agencies must keep this information confidential for five years, as provided in Section 212 of the Oil and Gas Act, 58 P.S. § 601.212.
Can a heavy hauler travel a road with vehicles in excess of the posted weight limit?
Yes. The heavy hauler needs to be bonded and have entered into a maintenance agreement with the road owner, so that they are responsible for excess maintenance costs to the roadway arising from their heavy hauling activities.
What is the penalty to heavy haulers for violating posted weight limit restrictions on public roadways, and who enforces these restrictions?
In accordance with PA Consolidated Statutes – Section 4902, any person operating a vehicle or combination upon a highway or bridge in violation of a prohibition or restriction imposed under subsection (a) is guilty of a summary offense and shall upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of $75, except that any person convicted of operating a vehicle with a gross weight limit in excess of a posted weight shall upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of $150 plus $150 for each 500 pounds, or part thereof, in excess of 3,000 pounds over the maximum allowable weight. The road owner enforces the weight limit restriction with assistance from the PA State Police, PennDot Motor Carrier Enforcement Teams and local police departments.
Where can I find Information on well locations and other natural gas related facilities?
Information can be obtained by contacting the Bradford County Planning and Mapping office at (570) 268-4103. DEP maintains a permit notification system called e-notice, which anyone may subscribe to, which will automatically notify you as to any action related to permits in the areas you enroll in the subscription.
How long does it take to drill a well and begin producing natural gas?
Horizontal drilling currently takes approximately 18 to 25 days from start to finish. The well needs to be fraced in order to release the gas. It is then connected to a pipeline, which transports the gas to the market. Some companies estimate that the timeline from start of drilling to sending the gas to marketplace is up to three to four months.
What is fracturing?
Marcellus Shale wells do not produce commercial quantities of natural gas until they have been fracture stimulated (fraced). Fracing involves placing sand, water and a frac fluid down the well at high pressures to create very small fractures in the shale. The sand holds the fractures open to allow the gas to flow to the surface.
How much water will the drilling process use?
The Susquehanna River Basin Commission estimates that at the height of production, gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation is expected to use about 28 million gallons per day. Each well is estimated to utilize somewhere on the average of three to six million gallons, primarily during the fracing process.
What is DEP’s role in protecting water?
Under the PA Clean Streams law, DEP has primary responsibility to protect water quality from any physical, biological or chemical pollution. These responsibilities are formalized under a number of additional laws and regulations that outline and clarify them, as well as the penalties for violating these laws and regulations.
Who regulates how much water the gas industry can use?
The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC), along with DEP and input from PA Fish and Boat Commission, is responsible for the regulation of water use by the gas industry. SRBC, along with these partners, evaluates stream/river flow, biological and physical impacts of withdrawals and determines the amounts that may be withdrawn. Withdrawals are metered and permitted. SRBC permitted sites can be viewed on their website, along with the regulations and conditions that are considered in granting these permits.
Where can I find information about when and why I should have my water tested?
See the informational links on the Bradford County Web page under DEP and Penn State University. Owners of water systems, both public and private, should test their water quality to assure that they are safe and healthy to begin with, and also to establish the base or background quality of the water prior to any type of activity that may impact that quality. Such activities may include mining, gas drilling, industrial operations, fueling stations, farming or any other activity that will utilize materials, fuels or chemicals that may impact ground water quality.