Hearing on natural gas well blowout, problem called near miss

    The chairwoman of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee called the recent natural gas well blowout in Clearfield County a “near miss” during a hearing about the incident.

    No one was injured by the spill, but Mary Jo White and other lawmakers say they’re worried about what happened.

    Senators told Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger the Clearfield County spill, a recent fire at a drilling site in West Virginia and the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are creating fear and concern about expanded drilling in the commonwealth. Hanger told the committee DEP inspectors have conducted more than 1,700 site inspections this year, including three at the Lawrence Township site that spewed gas and waste water 75 feet into the air for 16 hours. HANGER: What we’re trying to do with the rules and the oversight and the enforcement, of course, is work with good management to have a culture of putting safety first. And that culture really has to emanate from the CEO and the board of directors, all the way down to the people who are at the well sites and drive the trucks.

    Still, many lawmakers expressed concern.

    Democrat Anthony Williams of Philadelphia said he’s worried the department’s inspection staff of less than a hundred is too small to monitor the commonwealth’s 1,500 active natural gas wells.

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