The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was back in court this week, facing a lawsuit from Marcellus Shale drillers over its new oil and gas regulations.
Although nearly a decade has passed since Pennsylvania’s gas boom took off, the state only finalized the new regulations within the past month. The new rules have spurred a bitter fight between environmentalists, the industry, legislators and state regulators, which is still unfolding.
Last month, Scott Perry, who heads DEP’s oil and gas office, addressed a room full of gas industry representatives at the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s annual conference in Pittsburgh. He began by telling a story about a time he and a friend got into a fist fight in the eleventh grade.
“It was pretty lame actually, because neither one of us wanted to fight,” Perry said. “During the course of wrestling around, I was like, ‘You used to be my friend! Why are you doing this?'”
He said they’d only started fighting because two senior guys were egging them on.
“I kinda feel like I’m in a bit of that same situation now,” Perry said. “I’m meeting with folks, and on the side they’re saying, ‘Scott, I really think there’s gonna be some litigation over these rules.’”
He spent the next hour politely asking the industry to not sue DEP over its new regulations.
“There’s a better way of doing business than fighting about it all the time,” he said.
Among other things, the new rules create tougher standards for waste management and replacing damaged water supplies. Another section gives DEP more oversight of well permit applications near public resources, such as parks—a provision that’s a major sticking point for drillers. Perry repeatedly urged the industry reps to work with the agency.
“Don’t let the first phone call be to your lawyer,” he said.
That appeal was not successful.