Casey Visits Clearfield County Gas Well Following June Blowout

PENFIELD, PA – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today visited the site of a gas well owned by EOG Resources Inc. that experienced a gas well blowout earlier this year. After the visit to the well site, Senator Casey joined the Clearfield County Commissioners, Clearfield County emergency management personnel and District Forestry personnel to discuss legislation to improve emergency response at gas wells.

 “Natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region is a major issue for many towns and communities throughout Pennsylvania.  If done in the proper way, natural gas development has the potential to create Pennsylvania jobs, strengthen our State’s economy and reduce our dependence on foreign energy,” said Senator Casey.  “However, despite its potential benefits, natural gas drilling presents a concern for the people living near these drilling sites. We must do all that we can to ensure that the Marcellus Shale is developed using the best practices to protect our communities and our people.”

In response to the Clearfield County blowout and other recent incidents, Senator Casey plans to introduce legislation 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.  Senator Casey chaired a hearing in Pittsburgh last month to gather comments on his proposal.  Specifically, Senator Casey’s proposal would provide 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 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.  

In addition, Senator Casey introduced legislation to help prepare Pennsylvania workers for jobs in the natural gas industry.  The Marcellus Shale On-the-Job Training Act of 2010 will authorize grants to strengthen the On-the-Job Training programs to help ensure natural gas drilling jobs go to Pennsylvanians and not workers from out-of-state.  On-the-Job Training is a program authorized under the Workforce Investment Act.  The main purpose of the program is to allow an employer to sign a contract with the local workforce investment board (WIB), agreeing to hire workers that need on-site training.  The WIB provides a training subsidy to the employer equal to a percentage of the wage paid to the employee.  The subsidy is typically 50% of the wage paid.  The period of the contract is limited to the time it takes to properly train the employee.

 The Marcellus Shale On-the-Job Training Act of 2010 will authorize the Department of Labor to make grants to fund local On-the-Job Training programs; however, such grants may only be utilized to support training programs with employers that are directly related to the exploration for, production of, and transportation of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.