Oil and Gas Regulations

A tremendous variety of permits and plan approvals are required for oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania to ensure protection of the environment and public health and safety. The process of obtaining the necessary approvals starts long before a well is drilled and continues until the day the well is properly plugged and abandoned. Unconventional wells targeting shale formations are subject to the largest number of permits and plans.

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Below is a list of many of the approvals required here in Pennsylvania. Not included are reporting requirements, such as production reports and mechanical integrity testing to satisfy state and federal laws and regulations.

Potential Permits and Plans Required for Oil and Gas Well

Well Drilling and Operation

  • Well drilling permit (with well location plat, casing and cementing plan, PNDI for threatened or endangered species, landowner/water well owner notifications, coal owner or operator notification and gas storage field owner notification)
  • Transfer of well permit or registration
  • Proposed alternate method of casing, plugging, venting or equipping a well
  • Bond for oil and gas well(s) (individual or blanket, various bond types allowed)
  • Waiver of distance requirements from spring, stream, body of water, or wetland (to construct an unconventional pad within 100 feet of streams or wetlands or a vertical well bore within 300 feet)
  • Variance from distance restriction from existing building or water supply (to construct an unconventional well bore within 500 feet of a building or 1,000 feet of a supply for a water purveyor)
  • Proposed alternate method or material for casing, plugging, venting or equipping a well
  • Approval for alternative waste management practices
  • Inactive status
  • Roadspreading plan approval
  • Orphan well classification
  • Act 9 of 2013 requires operators to file an emergency response plan (which complies with the National Incident Management System) for each unconventional well, register well addresses with local 9-1-1 system operators and post informational signs.
  • Conformance with Oil & Gas Conservation Law 330-foot setback from lease limits for conservation wells (penetrating the Onondaga Limestone which includes Utica Shale wells).
  • Act 537 Sewage Facilities Approval for onsite toilet facilities

Waste Disposal

  • Off-site solids disposal
  • Residual waste transfer stations and processing facilities
  • Transportation of residual waste

Road Use

  • PennDOT Highway Occupancy Permit (HOP) (Road use permit for construction of access to state roadway)
  • Road use bond (PennDOT or municipality)

Pits and Impoundments

  • Dam permit for a centralized impoundment dam for Marcellus Shale gas wells
  • Dam Safety Permit for any impoundments > 50 acre-feet in capacity or with a dam height from the toe of slope > 15 feet
  • Approval of a pit for control, handling or storage of production fluids
  • Use of alternate pit liner

Wastewater Discharges

  • National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) storm water for construction activities
  • NPDES GP-1 for discharges from stripper oil wells
  • Water Quality Management Permit for treatment facilities

Water Use

  • Water Management Plan for Marcellus Shale Wells
  • Water allocation (SRBC, DRBC or DEP for Ohio River basin)

Stream and Wetland Impacts

  • Chapter 105 Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permit and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 Permit Application
    • Joint Permit
    • Small Projects Permit
  • Pennsylvania State Programmatic General Permit (PASPGP-4) (no application form – Federal approval for stream and wetland impacts permitted by the PADEP)
  • Department of the Army Permit (for requesting Federal approval for impacts waived by the PADEP)
  • Submerged Lands License Agreement (SLLA) (to occupy or cross lakes and rivers owned by the state)
  • Bureau of Waterways Engineering and Wetlands General Permits
    • GP-3 for Bank Rehabilitation, Bank Protection, and Gravel Bar Removal
    • GP-4 for Intake and Outfall Structures
    • GP-5 for Utility Line Stream Crossings
    • GP-7 for Minor Road Crossings
    • GP-8 for Temporary Road Crossings
    • GP-11 Maintenance, Testing, Repair, Rehabilitation or Replacement of Water Obstructions and Encroachments

Air Emissions

  • Bureau of Air Quality General Permits
    • GP-5 for Natural Gas Compression and/or Processing Facilities
    • GP 11 for Nonroad Engine(s)

Erosion and Sedimentation

  • Erosion & Sedimentation Plan (from 5,000 square feet up to 5 acres disturbance)
  • Erosion and Sedimentation Control General Permit for Oil and Gas Activities ESCGP-2 (equal to or greater than 5 acres disturbance)

Other Approvals

  • Act 127 Pipeline Operator registration
  • Local zoning approvals and conditional use permits under the PA Municipal Planning Code
  • Surface use notice to proceed from U.S. Forest Service in Allegheny National Forest

(Note: This list may not be completely up to date due to ever-changing regulatory requirements.)

For additional information about the regulations oil and gas operators must comply with, here are some resources:


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