PITTSBURGH, PA – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today chaired a field hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee entitled “Emergency Response in the Marcellus Shale Region.” At the hearing, Senator Casey heard from panelists testifying on current emergency response procedures and whether there is a need to increase regulation over emergency response procedures. Senator Casey also sought input on legislation he plans to introduce to improve emergency response at oil and gas wells.
“Because of the recent incidents at several gas well sites, I have called this hearing to investigate the current emergency response procedures and determine where we need improvement,” said Senator Casey. “We are currently recovering from an economic recession and the Marcellus Shale provides an excellent opportunity for job growth and economic prosperity in the region. With that said, we must ensure that we do not waste this resource by endangering workers and our environment. I firmly believe we can extract the natural gas in a safe manner that does not harm our workers or our environment.”
During the hearing, Senator Casey discussed legislation he plans to introduce to improve emergency response at oil and gas wells. The Faster Action Safety Team Emergency Response (FASTER) Act of 2010 provides the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with the ability to draft regulations that will enhance emergency response procedures at oil and gas wells. Specifically, the Act provides OSHA the power to draft regulations that will require operators to:
• Have an employee, knowledgeable in responding to emergency situations, present at the well at all times during the exploration or drilling phase;
• Make available a certified response team, within one hour of ground travel time, if an emergency situation arises;
• Contact local first responders within 15 minutes of the commencement of an emergency situation;
• Contact OSHA within 1 hour of the commencement of an emergency situation;
• Contact the National Response Center within 1 hour of the commencement of an emergency situation;
• Provide communication technology at the well site (e.g.., mobile communication or satellite phone);
• Provide annual training to local first responders on the hazards of a well site and proper emergency response techniques; and
• File an annual report with OSHA that names the certified response team assigned to each well of the operator.
OSHA will have 18-months to finalize the regulations under this Act. The Act will allow OSHA to define the term ‘emergency situation.’
Senator Casey also introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (S.1215) to repeal an exemption provided for the oil and gas industry and would require the disclosure of the chemicals used in their hydraulic fracturing processes. Senator Casey is pushing to include these provisions in energy legislation the Senate is slated to consider.
Senator Casey’s Faster Action Safety Team Emergency Response Act of 2010 (FASTER Act) can be found HERE.
At the hearing, Senator Casey heard testimony from Robert French, Director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Anthony Iannacchione, Associate Professor and Director of the Mine Engineering Program at the University of Pittsburgh, Nicholas DeIullis, President and Chief Operating Officer of CNX Gas Corporation, June Chappel, a resident of Hopewell Township in Washington County and Ralph Tijerina, Chairman of the Safety Committee for the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association and Health, Safety and Environmental Director of Range Resources.