“DEP is advocating for a public input process that is as open, accessible and transparent as possible,” DEP Deputy Secretary Scott Perry said. “This is the first-ever spacing order application for an unconventional shale gas well, and it is very important to DEP that Pennsylvanians have the opportunity to have their voices heard and comments considered.”
DEP’s proposal was submitted to the assigned hearing officer, who is responsible for determining the process for the hearing and procedure by which public comment will be received. The hearing officer will preside over the hearing and ultimately submit a recommended decision on the application to DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo for consideration.
If adopted as proposed, the public hearing would be in addition to the administrative hearing already scheduled and advertised for March 25 and 26 in New Castle. Operating much like a trial, DEP proposed that the scheduled administrative hearing accept testimony from DEP, Hilcorp and their respective witnesses, as well as royalty owners and other operators within the area subject to the prospective spacing order.
DEP has also requested that the administrative hearing be held in a larger space that can accommodate up to 500 people.
While the scheduled administrative hearing will be open for the general public to attend, due to the significant public interest in this spacing order, DEP proposed that an additional public hearing be scheduled to accept written and verbal testimony from all interested persons.
If adopted as proposed, testimony received during the additional public hearing will be considered by the hearing officer prior to making a recommended decision on Hilcorp’s application.
Hilcorp Energy Company is applying for a well spacing application that establishes four gas well drilling units on 3,267 acres to drill into the Utica Shale Formation in Pulaski Township, Lawrence County and Shenango Township, Mercer County.
Under the Oil and Gas Conservation Act of 1961, when a spacing order application is submitted, an administrative hearing must be held prior to entering an order establishing well spacing and drilling units. The hearing officer presiding over this matter was selected and assigned by the Office of General Counsel and appointed by Secretary Abruzzo.
DEP fulfilled its statutory requirement by issuing a public notice about the administrative hearing two weeks prior to the hearing in local newspapers. Although not required by statute, DEP also sent letters to more than 200 property owners in the area covered by Hilcorp’s application.
The scheduled administrative hearing will be held on March 25 and March 26 at the Lawrence County Government Center in New Castle, beginning at 10 a.m. and 8 a.m., respectively.
To view DEP’s proposal, visit www.dep.state.pa.us and click on “Oil and Gas,” “Office of Oil and Gas Management” and then “Conservation Law.” Pennsylvanians looking for more information should call 717-772-2199.