Pa. DEP adds disclaimer to gas drilling data site
PITTSBURGH – The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has added a disclaimer to its Marcellus Shale natural gas reporting Web page.
The agency now tells visitors to the website that it can’t guarantee the “accuracy, completeness or timeliness” of production data that companies submit and that “no warranty of any kind is given by DEP with respect to the production data.”
Financial markets and energy companies use the production reports as part of long-term decisions involving billions of dollars.
The disclaimer comes after several experts in the oil and gas industry criticized DEP in August for not alerting the public to problems in a biannual report. One of the state’s largest natural gas producers at first submitted unusable data and, as a result, the statewide production totals appeared to be far lower than they actually were. The problem was later corrected.
DEP spokesperson Katy Gresh said the agency decided to provide the clarification because of some public confusion about the reporting process.
The state legislature is responsible for how oil and gas reporting laws are written. Current law relies on self-reporting by oil and gas companies, and DEP is not required to independently verify the data. In most states, companies report production every month, but Pennsylvania law requires only biannual reporting.
The Marcellus Shale is a gas-rich formation of rock thousands of feet under much of Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Ohio and West Virginia. Advances in drilling technology made the shale accessible, which led to a boom in production, jobs and profits, and a drop in natural gas prices for consumers. The drilling operations also raised concerns about pollution and the effects on roads and other public services.
The Sierra Club and the Allegheny Defense Project have filed notice that they’re appealing a federal judge’s September ruling that says the U.S. Forest Service can’t regulate gas or oil drilling or other efforts to access mineral rights in the Allegheny National Forest.
U.S. District Judge Sean McLaughlin’s upheld an earlier decision that lifted a de facto ban on drilling in the northwestern Pennsylvania forest.
The judge found that the Forest Service had no more right than any other surface land owner to deny access to underground mineral rights owned by others.
The Forest Service owns the surface of the 513,000-acre forest, but only 7 percent of the mineral rights.
The environmentalists say the ruling ignores the reason the forest was established, which is to conserve land and water in the upper Allegheny River watershed.