Hearings Today on Marcellus Shale Drilling

Hearings to spotlight safety issues at gas wells
Monday, July 26, 2010
By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As multiple investigations continue into the fatal explosion and fire that killed two workers on a shallow oil and gas well in Indiana Township last week, state and federal regulators are also considering new, stricter regulations for burgeoning Marcellus Shale deep gas drilling operations.

Two hearings are planned today, one to review emergency response procedures and another on proposed state regulations.

The state Department of Environmental Protection, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Allegheny County fire marshal and Huntley & Huntley Inc., the Monroeville company that employed the workers, are investigating the cause of the Friday morning blast and blaze at the 2-year-old well in a wooded area off Rich Hill Road.

“It’s a tragic accident, but we have to know why it happened,” said Helen Humphreys, a DEP spokeswoman. “With these different entities looking at it from different directions, perhaps such a situation can be prevented or avoided in the future.”

The powerful explosion, which occurred as subcontractor workers were performing routine maintenance, blew a 12-by-8-foot storage tank about 70 yards from the site of the well.

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