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Allegheny County moves forward with rules on gas drillers' emissions

| Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, 11:40 a.m.

Allegheny County officials added a three-day notice to their proposed shale drilling rules, then gave them unanimous preliminary approval on Tuesday.

The five-member county Air Quality Program Regulation Subcommittee recommended that the county start requiring drillers to give three days' notice for each of four stages of their work.

“All this is is a notification ... and it's an aid to county staff,” Bob Orchowski, an industry environmental consultant who chairs the subcommittee, said after the vote. “That was a big selling point: It doesn't apply any new procedures or regulations.”

County officials have considered the rules for about two years to help them monitor air impacts from the county's growing number of shale gas wells. The rules are on track for final passage by the county Board of Health in March.

Air program officials updated their definition of an “unconventional well” to match the definition state legislators passed last year. Industry and state environmental officials asked for the change, saying inconsistency could cause problems. County officials, however, dismissed other concerns the Department of Environmental Protection raised.

The DEP claimed the notification requirements duplicate what the state requires. And it warned the rules may conflict with limits last year's state oil and gas law reforms placed on local control of drill sites, according to a letter Deputy Secretary Vincent J. Brisini sent the county.

That law required notification only to the state and municipalities, county officials said on Tuesday. County officials want notification so they can enforce their regulations on wells in the county, a power federal and state decisions granted them long ago and that Act 13 didn't alter, according to the county's official response to the public comments released at the meeting.

“Giving DEP notice 24 hours ahead of time is not going to help us,” said Jayme Graham, the county's air pollution control manager.

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

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