By David DeKok
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - New regulations governing the extraction of natural gas through fracking will go into effect on Saturday in Pennsylvania, the first overhaul since the industry took off in the state more than 10 years ago.
The new rules allow the state's department of environmental protection to require additional measures if fracking is taking place near public resources, and requires drillers to restore water supply that is degraded or damaged through fracking, according to the statement.
Environmental groups hailed the new rules. An oil and gas industry group blasted the regulations, with a spokesman saying he expected legal challenges.
The rules have been in development since 2011, and faced opposition from the oil and gas industry and their allies in the state legislature, where the regulations were rejected earlier this year.
Since then, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf has reached a compromise that gave traditional oil and gas wells different rules than “unconventional” wells developed through fracking.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into rock to extract natural gas or other products. Opposition has mounted as the run-off from fracking has been blamed for polluting water supplies in parts of the United States.
In March, residents near Dimock in the northeast corner of the state won $4.2 million in damages from Cabot Oil & Gas for the contamination of well water. The verdict is being appealed.
Thomas Au of the Sierra Club in Harrisburg said one of the biggest changes in the new regulations involves industry reporting of spills and contamination. “It’s much more thorough,” he said.
Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association president Daniel Weaver blasted the new regulations in a statement, saying they grew out of a “flawed, pre-determined and antagonistic development process.”
Industries cannot challenge state regulations in court until they go into effect. Au said he expects there will be litigation over some of the new rules.
(Reporting By David DeKok in Harrisburg; Editing by David Gregorio)