The Pennsylvania Independent Petroleum Producers Association (PIPP) filed a lawsuit on March 24, 2016, in the Commonwealth court of Pennsylvania challenging the legality of controversial new regulations promulgated by the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB) on February 3, 2016, governing conventional oil and natural gas operations (Chapter 78).
The lawsuit alleges that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the EQB violated Act 126 of 2014 by failing to promulgate regulations governing conventional oil and gas wells separately from regulations governing unconventional gas wells. As a result, the lawsuit alleges that PIPP’s members will be improperly subjected to many of the same rules applicable to billion-dollar, multinational corporations engaged in large-scale, unconventional (horizontal) drilling for natural gas.
The lawsuit quotes from several DEP publications – including its 2014 Annual Oil and Gas Report – which acknowledge that conventional operators “are much smaller in scope and they generate far less waste than unconventional drilling, therefore the potential impact to the environment is significantly less.”
The lawsuit seeks a declaration from the Court that the new regulations are unlawful and therefore unenforceable in their current form. The lawsuit and related filings also seek an immediate decision from the Court or that the hearing on the new regulations – currently schedule for April 21, 2016, before the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) – be enjoined until the Court can issue a ruling. Finally, the lawsuit seeks that the court issue a writ of mandamus requiring DEP and the EQB to start over and promulgate any new regulations governing conventional oil and gas operations separately from regulations governing unconventional gas well operations in accordance with Act 126 of 2014.
“These proposed regulations as written are illegal and would spell the end of a 155-year old legacy in Pennsylvania,” said Mark Cline, President of PIPP. He added, “As a regulated industry, we are required to obey the laws of our Commonwealth. The responsibilities of the DEP and other regulating agencies are no different. No one is above the law, no can they pick and choose what laws to abide by.”
PIPP is represented by attorney Christopher D. Carusone of Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman, P.C., in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
PIPP is a trade association based in Bradford, Pennsylvania, consisting of over 350 small producers, supply companies, and industry personnel engaged in a small-scale oil exploration, drilling, production and related operations from shallow, conventional formations.