Pennsylvania regulations require oil & gas companies to provide information to emergency responders

On April 4, 2013, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) proposed new rules required by the passage of Act 9 of 2012, a bill approved by the state’s General Assembly in February.
Act 9 authorized the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (“PEMA”) and DEP to adopt emergency regulations relating to oil and gas wells, in particular unconventional wells which are often located in remote areas, in order to ensure the safety of all employees and emergency responders during incidents at the well site. The proposed rules, which were filed with Pennsylvania’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission (“IRRC”), require oil and gas drillers to develop detailed plans for emergency responders in order to allow easier access to these wells, many of which use hydraulic fracturing, in the event of blowouts or other disasters.

The operators must:
  • Adopt a unique GPS coordinate address for each unconventional well at both the access road entrance and well site.
  • Register the address with PEMA, DEP, and the county emergency management organization.
  • Develop an emergency response plan and file the plan with PEMA, DEP, and the county. The plan must provide for equipment procedures, training and documentation necessary to respond to emergencies. The plan must include a summary of unique risks and hazards within a half-mile radius of the well (such as schools, playgrounds, streams or creeks). The plan must be updated annually.
  • Post a reflective sign at the entrance to each unconventional well site with the specific address and coordinates for the site, the emergency contact number, and other appropriate information.
The DEP estimates that for existing unconventional well sites the cost to the industry to provide the required signage may run between $250,000 and $1.1 million, depending on the material used to manufacture the sign ($150 per sign for fiberboard and $600 per sign for aluminum). The DEP worked with oil and gas industry representatives on these regulations and found that these rules were the least burdensome. According to the DEP, companies that use industry best management practices already have many of these requirements in place.

This post was prepared by Barclay Nicholson ( or 713 651 3662) from Fulbright's Energy Practice.