2012 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes
Title 58 - OIL AND GAS
Chapter 32 - Development
Section 3218 - Protection of water supplies

§ 3218.  Protection of water supplies.

(a)  General rule.--In addition to the requirements of subsection (c.1), a well operator who affects a public or private water supply by pollution or diminution shall restore or replace the affected supply with an alternate source of water adequate in quantity or quality for the purposes served by the supply. The department shall ensure that the quality of a restored or replaced water supply meets the standards established under the act of May 1, 1984 (P.L.206, No.43), known as the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Act, or is comparable to the quality of the water supply before it was affected by the operator if that water supply exceeded those standards. The Environmental Quality Board shall promulgate regulations necessary to meet the requirements of this subsection.

(b)  Pollution or diminution of water supply.--A landowner or water purveyor suffering pollution or diminution of a water supply as a result of the drilling, alteration or operation of an oil or gas well may so notify the department and request that an investigation be conducted. Within ten days of notification, the department shall investigate the claim and make a determination within 45 days following notification. If the department finds that the pollution or diminution was caused by drilling, alteration or operation activities or if it presumes the well operator responsible for pollution under subsection (c), the department shall issue orders to the well operator necessary to assure compliance with subsection (a), including orders requiring temporary replacement of a water supply where it is determined that pollution or diminution may be of limited duration.

(b.1)  (Reserved).

(b.2)  Telephone number.--The department shall establish a single Statewide toll-free telephone number that persons may use to report cases of water contamination which may be associated with the development of oil and gas resources. The Statewide toll-free telephone number shall be provided in a conspicuous manner in the notification required under section 3211(b) (relating to well permits) and on the department's Internet website.

(b.3)  Responses.--The department shall develop appropriate administrative responses to calls received on the Statewide toll-free telephone number for water contamination.

(b.4)  Website.--The department shall publish, on its Internet website, lists of confirmed cases of subterranean water supply contamination that result from hydraulic fracturing.

(b.5)  Facility operation qualifications.--The department shall ensure that a facility which seeks a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for the purposes of treating and discharging wastewater originating from oil and gas activities into waters of this Commonwealth is operated by a competent and qualified individual.

(c)  Presumption.--Unless rebutted by a defense established in subsection (d), it shall be presumed that a well operator is responsible for pollution of a water supply if:

(1)  except as set forth in paragraph (2):

(i)  the water supply is within 1,000 feet of an oil or gas well; and

(ii)  the pollution occurred within six months after completion of drilling or alteration of the oil or gas well; or

(2)  in the case of an unconventional well:

(i)  the water supply is within 2,500 feet of the unconventional vertical well bore; and

(ii)  the pollution occurred within 12 months of the later of completion, drilling, stimulation or alteration of the unconventional well.

(c.1)  Requirement.--If the affected water supply is within the rebuttable presumption area as provided in subsection (c) and the rebuttable presumption applies, the operator shall provide a temporary water supply if the water user is without a readily available alternative source of water. The temporary water supply provided under this subsection shall be adequate in quantity and quality for the purposes served by the supply.

(d)  Defenses.--To rebut the presumption established under subsection (c), a well operator must affirmatively prove any of the following:

(1)  except as set forth in paragraph (2):

(i)  the pollution existed prior to the drilling or alteration activity as determined by a predrilling or prealteration survey;

(ii)  the landowner or water purveyor refused to allow the operator access to conduct a predrilling or prealteration survey;

(iii)  the water supply is not within 1,000 feet of the well;

(iv)  the pollution occurred more than six months after completion of drilling or alteration activities; and

(v)  the pollution occurred as the result of a cause other than the drilling or alteration activity; or

(2)  in the case of an unconventional well:

(i)  the pollution existed prior to the drilling, stimulation or alteration activity as determined by a predrilling or prealteration survey;

(ii)  the landowner or water purveyor refused to allow the operator access to conduct a predrilling or prealteration survey;

(iii)  the water supply is not within 2,500 feet of the unconventional vertical well bore;

(iv)  the pollution occurred more than 12 months after completion of drilling or alteration activities; or

(v)  the pollution occurred as the result of a cause other than the drilling or alteration activity.

(e)  Independent certified laboratory.--An operator electing to preserve a defense under subsection (d)(1) or (2) shall retain an independent certified laboratory to conduct a predrilling or prealteration survey of the water supply. A copy of survey results shall be submitted to the department and the landowner or water purveyor in the manner prescribed by the department.

(e.1)  Notice.--An operator of an unconventional well must provide written notice to the landowner or water purveyor indicating that the presumption established under subsection (c) may be void if the landowner or water purveyor refused to allow the operator access to conduct a predrilling or prealteration survey. Proof of written notice to the landowner or water purveyor shall be provided to the department for the operator to retain the protections under subsection (d)(2)(ii). Proof of written notice shall be presumed if provided in accordance with section 3212(a) (relating to permit objections).

(f)  Other remedies preserved.--Nothing in this section shall prevent a landowner or water purveyor claiming pollution or diminution of a water supply from seeking any other remedy at law or in equity.

 

Special Provisions in Appendix.  See section 4(3)(vi) of Act 13 of 2012 in the appendix to this title for special provisions relating to continuation of prior law.

Cross References.  Section 3218 is referred to in sections 3211, 3252 of this title.

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