U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) chaired a hearing on emergency response in the Marcellus Shale region on Monday at the federal courthouse in Pittsburgh.
He heard testimony from the head of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, an engineering professor, energy company executives and a resident of Washington County who lives in direct proximity of horizontal gas wells.
They all testified on emergency preparedness at gas drilling sites throughout the region.
Casey said he called the hearing because of the recent incidents at gas well sites.
"We hope that what we can put in place is not just a response but a series of rules that would prevent an emergency from becoming a tragedy," he said.
On Friday two contracted maintenance workers were killed in an explosion in Indiana Township, Allegheny County. However, that was a shallow gas well, not a Marcellus Shale well. In June, there was a blow out at a Marcellus Shale gas well in Clearfield County. No one was injured but natural gas and fracking water spewed for 16 hours before the well was capped.
Anthony Iannacchione is the Director of the Mining Engineering Program at The University of Pittsburgh. He said there specific plans should be in place for drilling in different areas.
"When you drill in a remote area like Clearfield county and a populated area like Allegheny County probably the likelihood something will go wrong will be similar but the consequences will be much different," he said.
Casey has introduced legislation to improve emergency response procedures at gas and well sites. His bill would require that an emergency response trained employee be present at the well during exploration and drilling, and that operators must contact first responders within 15 minutes that an emergency arises.