PHILADELPHIA Jan 28 Pennsylvania Gov. Ed
Rendell on Thursday proposed new rules to strengthen state
regulation of natural gas drilling to protect drinking water
supplies and announced the hiring of 68 new inspectors.
The measures reflect the Democratic governor's
environmental concerns while still aiming to promote
development of the massive Marcellus Shale formation.
Marcellus is one of four major shale formations that could
provide the United States with an abundant energy supply but
whose exploitation could be inhibited by regulators.
The regulations are designed to prevent the escape of
drilling chemicals into domestic water supplies, following
numerous local reports of contamination from a process called
They would require energy companies to restore or replace
water supplies affected by drilling; require operators to
notify regulators of any leakage of gas into water wells; and
direct drillers to construct well casings from oilfield-grade
cement designed to prevent leakage of drilling fluid into
underground water supplies.
To bolster enforcement, the state's Department of
Environmental Protection was hiring 68 new inspectors in
addition to the 120 already on staff.
Pennsylvania officials say energy companies have applied
for 5,200 permits in the Marcellus Shale this year, almost
triple the number in 2009, as drillers scramble to develop the
huge gas field underlying about two-thirds of Pennsylvania and
parts of surrounding states.
The field is estimated to contain enough high-grade natural
gas to satisfy total U.S. demand for at least a decade.
"We want to encourage development of this resource because
it's a tremendous opportunity for the state, but we will not
allow that to happen at the expense of our environment," said
Rendell, who wants to launch a tax on gas drilling in this
Critics of gas drilling say toxic chemicals in drilling
fluid cause water to turn cloudy, foul-smelling or in some
cases flammable because of the escape of methane into private
water wells. Some of the chemicals can cause serious illnesses
including cancer, researchers say.
U.S. lawmakers are debating a bill that would require
energy companies to disclose drilling chemicals and allow
federal regulators oversight of the natural gas industry. The
bill is opposed by some Pennsylvania Republicans who argue that
regulation should remain with the states.
Ken Komoroski, a spokesman for Cabot Oil & Gas (COG.N),
which operates Marcellus gas wells in northeastern
Pennsylvania, said it was too early to comment on the
(Reporting by Jon Hurdle; Editing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by