Friday, December 10, 2010

Delaware River Basin Commission proposed Marcellus Shale rules- my thoughts

"By Sandy Bauers and Tom Avril

Inquirer Staff Writers
The Delaware River Basin Commission on Thursday proposed natural gas drilling rules in its four-state watershed that are tougher than those in the rest of Pennsylvania but that promise to do little to stem the intense wrangling over how to regulate the growing industry.

The commission anticipates as many as 10,000 wells could be drilled in the watershed it oversees, primarily in northeastern Pennsylvania and southern New York state, and its action inches those wells closer to reality.
A drilling moratorium that began in May stays in force until the rules become final, after a 90-day comment period, hearings, and likely changes.
The proposal aims to address concerns over the powerful technique called "fracking," which companies have used elsewhere in the state to extract the bountiful gas reserves trapped in a rock formation called the Marcellus Shale. With this proposal, the commissioners waded further into a debate with a raft of environmental and economic issues.
Fracking provides access to a fuel that is cleaner burning than coal, for example, and landowners say the lease payments from drillers enable them to maintain open space. Yet the technique, in which large amounts of water are used to dislodge gas deposits, involves the use of chemicals that can contaminate waterways.
As part of the 83-page rule proposal:
Companies would have incentives to drill away from forested areas and farther back from stream banks.
Contaminated wastewater from fracking would have to be held in tanks rather than open ponds, as is done elsewhere in the state.
Drilling refuse - called "cuttings" - could not be buried onsite, as Pennsylvania allows. It would have to be "beneficially used" or disposed of properly off the site.

Moreover, the commission would require water-quality monitoring plus water and wastewater tracking to keep tabs on the volumes used and where it all goes for treatment and disposal, said Carol R. Collier, the commission's executive director.
The rules also propose a $125,000 fee per well as financial "assurance" for the plugging and restoration of natural gas wells.
Among the more unusual steps, the commission would allow "natural gas development plans" for broad lease areas rather than individual wells. "

Another article

Portion of article posted - I am in the process of reviewing:

In general
1. I like the idea of no burial - but this is not a common practice for Marcellus Shale.
2. I like the idea of planning for regional drilling and permitting mulitple sites - allows for evaluating overall concerns.
3. I am not sure if the DRBC is duplicating things that the PADEP or other state agencies would handle.
4. I like the monitoring concept - but we currently do monitoring - Unless they mean establishing long-term monitoring stations.
5. Waste tracking and water tracing is part of the PADEP and SRBC system.
6. I like closed loop storage rather than open ponds- I think the industry has already moved in this direction.
7. The bond  or it is a fee- if it is a bond this is minimal and it is not their job or responsiblity.  If it is a fee - they better be planning to put some people on the ground and use the money in the local community.   Bonding contamination - this is the state and local agency requirement not the role of a river basin commission.

Draft Regulations

Full Text

1 comment:

    1. The minimum isolation on the wetland does not make sense and does not provide any difference between a wetland that is supported by a seasonal perched water table of local extent and a wetland supported by a regional groundwater discharge zone. This isolation distance should be reduced.
    2. Stream - this buffer exceeds the buffer recently passed by the state and it is exclusionary and makes no difference between a riparian wetland along a EV stream and a first order stream in a forest complex.

    I do not think it is the job of the DRBC to control landuse practices and zoning - this is the job of the local agency, state and municipality - I believe they are stepping over the line.