Oil and gas drilling activity in Pennsylvania is assuming a record-setting pace.

Given the number of drilling permits issued, Pennsylvania is on track to set a third consecutive yearly record, the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reports.

At the end of August, DEP issued 4,919 permits - a 29-percent increase over the 3,818 issued during the same period a year ago.

The number of drilling permits issued by DEP has risen steadily over the past six years, from 3,016 in 2001, to 3,084 in 2002, to 4,280 in 2003. In 2004, Pennsylvania issued a record 4,595 permits, followed by 6,046 in 2005 - a 32 percent increase.

It is estimated as many as 300,000 wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania since Edwin Drake drilled the nation's first commercial oil well in 1859 in Titusville, Venango County. The commonwealth produced half of the world's oil until the East Texas oil boom of 1901.