Monday, February 21, 2011

Comments on the Delaware River Basin Proposed Regulations

February 17, 2011

Commission Secretary
Delaware River Basin Commission
PO Box 7360
25 State Police Drive
West Trenton, NJ 08628
RE: Preliminary Comments on Draft Copy of “Natural Gas Development Regulations” – dated December 9, 2010 – Article 7 of Part III – Basin Regulations
Dear Commissioners,

My name is Mr. Brian Oram and I am a licensed professional geologist by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the principle of B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc. based in Dallas, Pennsylvania. I am a lifelong resident of Northeastern Pennsylvania and over the past 20 years I had the opportunity to work with the Commission on a number of water and wastewater related projects. For the record, this is my personal and professional opinion and I have never been employed, retained, or conducted work on behalf of a natural gas company, royalty owner group, or Association for the natural gas/oil industry. Also, I am a royalty owner of my 0.3 acres in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

1. I agree that the purpose of the regulation appears to be consistent with the historic mission of the Delaware River Basin Commission, but it appears that some of the reasons for the changes are based on speculation and assumptions and not based on fact or science. This is a significant departure from the normal standard operating procedure for the Commission.

2. Because of the cumulative volumes and extent of the potential development for the natural gas industry, I support the decision of the Delaware River Basin Commission (“Commission”) in managing all water used for the development of Marcellus Shale Wells or other Oil & Gas Development as a consumptive water use that requires review and approval by the Commission. This process provides for the evaluation of a resource and the establishment of operational protocols and procedures that are actionable and easier to monitor, control, and management for the benefit of all users in the basin.

3. I disagree that all natural gas development projects have a “substantial effect” on the water resources of the Basin, but I would agree that if the water withdrawal and usage was not managed it would be more likely for problems to occur. To be honest – it is fact that the water quality of a stream changes and becomes impacted as soon as the impervious area increases above 10% and by 25 % the water is degraded no matter the type or nature of the development. Since most drilling pads are reclaimed very quickly compared to a strip mall, commercial development, or industrial complex, the natural gas pad and pad design is not where the Commission should be concentrating its expertise.

4.I do not agree that Commission has the authority to establish principles and practices regarding watershed management on the basin or local level. This would appear to be inconsistent with the laws of the individual states and local agencies and result in the Commission actually attempting to control land-usage and land-use planning. These activities have historically been controlled by the states and local municipalities in Pennsylvania. In recent years, we have implemented Best Management Practices to further reduce the potential impacts of land development through the use of innovative and more complex engineering controls and best practices.

5. It is my professional opinion that the Commission should base it decisions on sound Water Resource Management and not land-use control. This could be accomplished by lowering your threshold for review and approval to projects with a proposed consumptive use of 20,000 gpd.

6.Because of the historic work of the Commission, it would be my professional opinion that the “Approval-By-Rule” provides a mechanism to first use water from sources where allocations have already been approved, permitted, and have a history of not adversely impacting the community or environment. It may be necessary to update dockets to ensure adequate and accurate monitoring and reporting, but at no time should an ABR be permitted when an increase in the withdrawal is needed or where the operator is out of compliance with the docket. All “Approval-By-Rule” should require the installation of real-time monitoring devices related to water flow, volume, and water quality. Water quality monitoring should at least include pH, conductivity, turbidity, mv, and dissolved oxygen.

7. With respect to the working relationship between the “Host State” and the Commission, the document suggests that the agencies have cooperative agreements, but it is clear that the purpose of this Article is to impose regulations and requirements that go beyond the requirements for Oil and Gas Regulation in the respective “Host State”. I would agree that the PA Oil and Gas Regulations need to be updated, but it is not the role of the Commission to implement new regulations for the citizens of Pennsylvania. The Commission should be proactive in the areas of water management, consumptive use, wastewater disposal, and proper stormwater management, but the Commission should not be regulating Oil & Gas Development in Pennsylvania or other host states.

8.Therefore, the Commission should not be involved with well pad requirements or Natural Gas Development Plan requirements.

9.Well Pad Design – I would agree that the Oil & Gas Regulations in Pennsylvania need to be updated and we need better bonding requirements, technical staff, and monitoring, but I do not believe it is the role for the Commission to tell Pennsylvania how to implement these changes in Pennsylvania. These changes are the responsibility of the citizens and our elected officials in Pennsylvania or other host states.

10. Natural Gas Development Plan requirements – this sounds like a wonderful idea that could be implemented on the state level, but the primary problem is that the industry is in the process of “exploratory drilling” to determine the extent of the resource. The requirements of this Article are the equivalent of asking me to plan and layout a water supply system before any wells have been drilled to determine yield and quality of the water. This provision or requirement should be removed, but the project sponsor should submit a comprehensive water and wastewater management plan and obtain the necessary documents to implement these plans as per the Consumptive Use and Wastewater Dockets historically managed by the Commission.

11. The fees collected under this Article should be used to help the host states implement, administer, and inspect all phases and aspects of natural gas exploration, development, and operation with the exception of the dockets required for consumptive water use and wastewater dockets.

Comment – The Commission could use some of the funding to host and facilitate un-biased local workshops for landowners, royalty owner groups, gas companies, and municipalities on “Best Management Practices for Natural Gas Development” and “Host Education Sessions for Local Government on Land-Use Planning, Sourcewater Protection and Watershed Management”.

12. Definitions
The definitions for the following are not adequate and in some cases have no place in a document related to water resource and wastewater management for natural gas development. This is not a zoning document and this is not an Environmental Impact Assessment.
1. Agricultural land- this is a very poor definition.
2. Domestic Water Supply Well- this definition is not correct.
3. Final Site Restoration – the Commission does not have the authority to tell a private landowner how to restore an area post-drilling. The area needs to be reclaimed to the condition that is stated in the permit application.
4. Forest Site- this should be removed.
5. High and Low Volume Fractured Wells – this should be removed because the Commission should not be involved in permitting the location of well pads, drilling processes, or any aspect of Oil & Gas Development that is regulated and enforced by the state.
6. Natural Gas Development Plan – should be removed. Commission should not be involved in permitting the location of well pads, drilling processes, or any aspect of Oil & Gas Development that is regulated and enforced by the state.
7. Freshwater – definition – remove the words – “ most often salt”.
8. Groundwater – I do not believe the Commission has the ability to regulate brine water. If a term is used, this term should be consistent with EPA and the UIC program. The EPA protects water with a TDS of less than 10,000 mg/L.
9. Setback – this should be removed because these distances are and should be established by the host state as part of “Oil and Gas Law” in the respective states. In really the combination of provisions establish by set-back will result in nearly every project not being able to use the “Approval-by-Rule” process or will not permitted. The provisions in most cases will result in wells sites being located in the headwaters and primary recharge areas for are watersheds. This is exactly were we do not want to push this activity, but this is the result of the “Setback”.
10. Wetlands – this is a very poor definition.

13. Section 7.3
1. Types of Natural Gas Development Projects – Items 1 and 4 should be reviewed and approved by a Docket. Items 2 and 3 should be removed these are the responsibility of the “Host State” and not the DRBC.
2. Remove Section 7.3 ( c) ii and remove the words “well pad”. The Commission should be regulate “well pads” or “well pad layout”.
3. Remove Section 7.3 (e) 2, 3, 4 – The Commission should not approve or deny well pads or Natural Gas Development Plans – this is the role of the “Host State”.
4. Section 7.3 (f) – the timing should be consistent with the original terms of the permit, i.e., 10 years and this should this should only apply to water withdrawals and wastewater permits. If the facility is not built – then the Executive Director could deny or approve an extension.
5. Section 7.3 (h) This is only applicable to water consumptive uses – other actions should be implemented for wastewater discharges.
6. Section 7.3 (i) (1) this is governed by the “Host State” and this provision should be deleted. The project sponsor should provide notice for water withdrawals and treatment plan discharges as required by the host state and the Commission.
7. Section 7.3 (j) – This provision is short-sided and does not adequately address safety issues- this section should be edited or reworded. The Commission should have access to water withdrawal points and wastewater treatment plants, but the Commission should not be inspecting well sites or other accessory features unless there is a complaint related to an activity they permitted or created a docket. This is the role of the “Host State”.
8. Section 7.3 (k) – this is the responsibility of the “Host State”, but the Commission can require a bond related to the water and wastewater dockets. Most of this section cites activities that are the responsibility of the “Host State”, and not the Commission.
9. Section 7.3 (I) Fees – the fees collected by the Commission should be used to implement a real-time water quality monitoring network for the basin, cover the cost of reviewing water withdrawal and wastewater dockets, provide funding to the “Host State” in the on-site inspection of natural gas drilling operations, cover the cost for inspection of water withdrawal and wastewater dockets, operations, and filings, and developing a central location to track water usage in the basin. Some sections need to be removed because the Commission should not permit well pad sites or require Master Planning for Natural Gas Development, this is the responsibility of the “Host State”.
10. Section 7.3 – Water Supply Charge – it would be advisable to charge a reduced fee or no fee for the use of reclaimed or degraded waters, if the applicant provides financial assistance in the implementation of long-term best management practices to remediate or improve Community Water Management Challenges or if the applicant plans to use a water reuse approach. For example, an applicant that is planning to use a portion of the discharge from a wastewater treatment plant updates the level of treatment for the facility and then uses this water for hydrofracturing should not be required to pay the “Consumptive Water Use Charge” for the water that is used or if they are charged these monies should be put into a fund to help upgrade wastewater treatment plants and stormwater facilities in the basin or sub-basin.

11. Section 7.4 –Natural Diversity Inventory Assessment – the Commission should request the applicant to conduct a new NDIA only when the original was conducted over 365 days of submission or if peer reviewed scientific research has demonstrated a change requiring a NDIA. The way it is written the requirement is arbitrary.

12. Hydrologic Report – it should be a requirement that the applicant submit for review a “Proposed Pumping Test Plan” for review, comment, and approval.

13. Use of recovered flowback and production water - removed the wording well pad docket and the use of flowback and production water should be encouraged and not discouraged. The Commission should require the use of flowback and production water to the maximum extent technically feasible as part of the consumptive use docket and the applicant should be charged only once for the use of the water.
14. Storage of recovered flowback and production water – must be consistent with the requirements of the “Host State” – not Section 7.5(h)(2)(iv).
15. Section 7.5 – in general this section should be removed because this is regulated by the Oil and Gas Law in the Host State”, but portions of this section related to water use sources, reporting, charges for water, encouraging conservation/reuse, and wastewater management should be integrated into other dockets or require the submission of a water management and metering plan. It is critical that the “wastes are tracked from cradle to grave”.

16. Section 7.5 – Non-point source pollution control plan – is already integrated into the regulations and requirements for the Host State” and I believe that the Commission is given the opportunity to review and comment on these permits.
17. Mitigation, Remediation and Restoration – again the lead agency is the “Host State” and not the Commission. The company should be required to contact the Host State” and the “Host State” should contact the Commission. The Host State” should be the lead agency. The Commission should not be regulating and determining impacts from or associated with Oil & Gas Development in the “Host State” – This is the role of the “Host State”. The Commission should be directly involved in cases where the ‘suspect impact’ is associated with a water withdrawal or a water treatment docket.
18. Groundwater and Surfacewater Monitoring and Post-Drilling Monitoring – this should be addressed as part of the Oil and Gas Law for the “Host State” and not regulated, required, or managed by the Commission, except where it is part of a treatability or stream assessment or a water withdrawal docket.
19. The Commission could require more comprehensive monitoring and reporting associated with water withdrawal and wastewater disposal dockets. The funds collected as part of the review fees should be used to install and maintain a real-time water quality monitoring network of the surfacewater and groundwater and other stream assessments.
20. Drilling Fluids and Drill Cuttings – this is regulated by the Oil and Gas Laws for the Host State”.

21. Wastewater Treatment and Disposal Plan – this should be part of the docket and permitting process for treatment facilities proposing to treat fracwater or production water and then dispose of the water via a stream, surface, or subsurface discharge, but not used to operate Water Reuse Treatment Facilities (WRTF). WRTF will need to obtain approval for the disposal of any solids, sludge, or brine solutions and should complete a waste disposal plan.

22. Section 7.6 – The approval for well pads should be deleted, but the approvals, treatability studies, water testing, and effluent limits seem reasonable.

23. The Basin Wide TDS level does not appear to be based on any water quality modeling, scientific data, or fact. The DRBC should base all decisions and permit conditions based on fact and sound science.

In general, the Commission should remove any provisions within Article 7 that appear to do the following:
1. Establish standards and protocols that go beyond the requirements of the Oil & Gas Law within the “Host State”.
2. Pre-exempt local zoning or planning requirements or establish set-backs that go beyond the provisions set by state law and are shown to be exclusionary.

3. The Commission should not be involved with the design of the well, selection of drilling practices, permitting individual well pad sites, inspecting well pads, evaluating potential impacts associated with Oil & Gas Development, or any of the provisions that are regulated by laws within the “Host State”.
4. If the Commission wants to be involved with monitoring activities that are a significant impact to the basin, the Commission should be monitoring and investigating combined sewer overflows, large permanent industrial sites, major water consumes, and encourage the water reuse. After reading this Article, I realized that the Commission wants to regulate the siting of each individual Marcellus Shale Well Pad, but has no interest in managing the placement of fuel storage tanks, gasoline stations or chemical storage facilities that exist within the basin and in many cases within the floodplains of the Delaware River and its tributaries.
The Commission should expand its role and take leadership in the following areas:
1. Developing a network of real-time stream and groundwater monitoring stations to monitor and track water quality in the basin.
2. Funds collected during the review process and continued operations should cover the cost to maintain the monitoring network and fund the hiring of additional inspectors for the “Host State” and local community.
3.Working with the “Host State” to implement new and updated Oil & Gas Law that provides protection for each host community and the basin and implements Best Management Practices and help the host communities develop State-Specific Sourcewater Management Plans / Wellhead/Aquifer Management Plans that control and regulated by the host state and not the Commission. Fund projects related to environmental education in topics related to stormwater management, water conservation, septic system management, and hazardous waste disposal for the citizens in the basin. For the municipalities and water authorities, the Commission should work with the “Host State” to develop more comprehensive zoning and subdivision ordinances, stormwater and water resource management plans, wellhead protection, and sourcewater protection plans.
4. Act as the unbiased scientific researcher and agency that helps the “Host State” base decisions based on scientific fact and not “suspected” “potential” concerns and undefined risk.
5. Be the community leader and expert in water allocation, water and wastewater management, and establishing stream or subsurface discharge standards that will NOT adversely impact the environment based on science.
6. Adding a provision that requires the approval of the Commission when an other project has proposed a consumptive water usage of more than 20,000 gpd (30 day average).
7. The document lacks any mention of review times for projects and obtaining dockets for approval.

I think the Commission has done an outstanding job in the basin for the citizens of Pennsylvania and has worked in cooperation with the host community. Article 7, as proposed, is a significant deviation from this cooperative and mutually beneficial agreement and understanding.

I submit these comments with great respect to the Commission, it staff, commissioners, and field personal. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call me at (570) 335-1947 or email me at

Respectfully submitted,

Mr. Brian Oram, Professional Geologist / Soil Scientist

Citizen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Compression Station in Dallas Pennsylvania - My comments and concerns

February 6, 2011

Municipality of Dallas Township
P.O. Box 518
Dallas, Pa. 18612
Re: Compression Station

Dear XX,

We have only been residents of Dallas Township for approximately 11 years and we have three daughters that attend the Dallas School District. For your information, we run a family environmental consulting practice and we are writing this letter to your office to express our personal and professional concerns about the proposed compression station.

Since we are not familiar with the zoning related regulations in the Township and we believe this is a “new use” that has not been approved in the Township, we listed a number of items that we would suggest the municipality require as part of the review process for natural gas related activities.

The Township should hirer and pay for the services of an independent consultant(s) with experience with compression station design and operation and the development and implementation of emergency response planning. These consultants would review the proposed plan and provide these comments to the Township- the services for this professional should be reimbursed by the Applicant.

The Applicant should prepare and submit an Emergency Response Plan and Health/ Safety Plan for the pipeline and compression station and other hazardous activities or risks associated with this operation. Incidents should be ranked or prioritized and the level of response should be a function of the incident. This plan must be developed in cooperation with all “Stakeholders”. As reported in the Times Leader- it is not adequate for the company to just prepare the plans and coordinate with local responders, the “Stakeholders” will need to take an active role in developing, coordinating, and implementing this plan. This plan must have “local” ownership and direct input. The plan should also identify the equipment, training, and other items that will be needed to effectively respond to an emergency or incident and include a mechanism to report events to the appropriate agencies, local agency, and stakeholders.

This plan should include an evaluation of the potential “worst case” hazard and provide recommended strategies to minimize the risk and provide mechanisms to protect the welfare of the community and our environment. Additional engineering controls and monitoring equipment should be installed on-site and off-site, these controls should be installed and maintained at the Applicants cost.

The Applicant should include an Operation and Maintenance Plan and Procedures for the facility and if the facility is required to submit reports to, the PADEP or other regulatory agencies copies of all reports and accidents should be submitted to the Township within a fixed time period.
The Township should update the existing noise ordinance to properly address the operations of a compression station and require the installation of a real-time monitoring system with remote reporting to the Township and other Stakeholders. One of the pdf files listed below is a reference to an innovated noise control and prevention system. Since this proposed operation is within a “rural residential” area and near a major school, the noise control system should have a minimum of one back-up device in case the primary device fails.

The Applicant should conduct baseline water quality, noise, and air monitoring, install a meteorological station, and air monitoring equipment upgradient and downgradient of the facility, the installation should require real-time monitoring of the system with remote reporting to the Township and other stakeholders – this information is critical to properly respond to a “major” incident or release. The facility is located along or near a groundwater divide that may service our community and the area, surrounding the project site is serviced by individual private wells. These private wells are not routinely monitored or checked for contamination.

It is likely that the Applicant is required to report to multiple state organizations, the Applicant should be required to submit a copy of all reports submitted to obtain and maintain permits, emission testing reports during operation, and state inspection reports to the Local Agency. The Applicant should agree to pay an annual fee to maintain these records available to the public, Township, and local emergency response professionals.
The Applicant should be required to maintain an emergency call number and the Township should require the utilization of the NIMS – National Incident Management System and Incident Command System that has been developed by Homeland Security as part of the emergency response planning.

This is not our area of expertise, but we believe these are critical components to address concerns related to protecting the health and safety of the community. For your information, we found the following websites very informative:

For the record, we DO NOT provide the consulting services that were mentioned in this letter. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at 570-XXX-XXXX.

Respectfully submitted,

Mr. Brian Oram, Professional Geologist
Mrs. Robin Oram

Extra Comment
Without saying - the placement of a compression station at the proposed sight would appear to be extremely risky, based on the surrounding land-use, access roads, and the presence of all of the schools that make up the Dallas School System.   If possible, the Township should work with the gas company and landowner to identify other sites that are more suitable to site this infrastructure.
The Compression station should not be located in this area, but if it is not possible to relocate the station, it may be necessary for the Gas Company to help relocate the school.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The right way to Manage Water in Northeast PA

SRBC’s role in regulating natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale

"Part two - What SRBC does not regulate and trends in water usage
February 17, 2011 - By Susan Obleski
This column is presented weekly by the Public Education sub-committee of the Clinton County Natural Gas Task Force in an effort to provide accurate, up-to-date information on activities surrounding the Marcellus Shale formation and the natural gas exploration industry. For more information on Task Force activities, visit the Task Force page on the Clinton County government website at
This represents the second in a series of articles from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission covering its role as it relates to the natural gas industry.
This article continues the focus on the Susquehanna River Basin Commission's (SRBC) regulation of natural gas well development in the Marcellus Shale, using the question and answer format drawn from SRBC's Frequently Asked Questions handout, which is available through SRBC's website at marcellus-faq.htm.
This week's questions will: (1) Help readers understand what SRBC does not regulate regarding natural gas activities, and (2) give readers a perspective on amounts of water used for drilling and hydrofracturing activities in the Susquehanna basin.
Q: Does SRBC regulate for water quality?
No. SRBC has never regulated water quality for any projects, whether for natural gas development or other purposes. The framers of the Susquehanna River Basin Compact were very deliberate when they directed SRBC to avoid duplicating the efforts of its four members - the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the states of New York and Maryland and the federal government. Since the states had already assumed responsibility for regulating water quality, SRBC consciously chose not to regulate water quality to avoid what would be an obvious duplication with regulatory agencies such as the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Q: Does SRBC regulate frac fluid treatment, recycling and disposal?
No. SRBC does not regulate the capture, storage, transport, treatment, recycling or disposal of wastewater - known as flowback fluids - from natural gas drilling and hydrofracturing activities. The state agencies have the lead on those regulations. SRBC does, however, require natural gas companies to abide by all other agencies' water quality and waste management requirements; failure to do so can result in the modification, suspension or revocation of SRBC's approval. SRBC also requires natural gas companies to report post-hydrofracturing information to the commission. These reports allow SRBC to track freshwater used, recycled flowback fluids utilized, origin of both freshwater/wastewater and destinations of wastewater and unused freshwater. And if natural gas companies propose to import flowback fluids for their operations in the Susquehanna River Basin, the recycled wastewater will be regulated as would any other water source under SRBC's diversion regulation.

Q: How much water has SRBC approved for natural gas development and how much more does SRBC anticipate approving?
A typical Marcellus Shale hydraulic fracturing operation for a horizontal gas well uses three to five million gallons of water over a two- to five-day period. As the natural gas industry has expanded its activities in the Susquehanna River Basin, it continues to seek new withdrawals so that water sources can be closer to the drilling areas, thereby minimizing hauling distances for water tanker trucks or lengths of water pipelines. SRBC allows gas companies to utilize shared sources (stream withdrawals) previously approved for use by another natural gas company to help reduce the number of intake locations, as long as the access and use agreements are registered with SRBC. As of September 2010, SRBC had approved withdrawals totaling approximately 79 million gallons per day at 133 locations largely in the Pennsylvania portion of the basin but a few in the New York portion as well.
As demand for water increases, the industry continues to focus on improved water management and conservation practices, including the reuse of flowback and production fluids, thereby reducing the quantity of freshwater necessary for hydrofracturing. Recent estimates indicate that the actual water use from the entire Marcellus and Utica Shale natural gas industry at full build-out is expected to be approximately 30 million gallons per day (gpd). To put that into perspective, water use for recreation is about 50 million gpd, water use for power production is about 150 million gpd and water use for public water supplies is about 325 million gpd. Although the move from exploration to production will provide management challenges and may necessitate regulatory changes, SRBC anticipates that gas industry water use can be accommodated along with demands from other uses.

Q: In addition to SRBC-approved withdrawals, what other sources of water can be used by natural gas companies?
SRBC's expedited approval-by-rule (ABR) process allows companies to use sources of water that have already been approved for their use at any of their drilling pads and to utilize shared sources (stream withdrawals) previously approved for use by another natural gas company, as long as access and use agreements are registered with SRBC. Gas companies may also request approval to use other sources of water, such as public water supplies or a source of lesser quality water, such as from wastewater or noncontact cooling.
In Pennsylvania, SRBC and the state Department of Environmental Protection are working with the industry to facilitate the withdrawal and use of impaired waters, including mine drainage (see photo of mine-drainage impacted river) and wastewater. This practice alone may greatly reduce existing stresses on the aquatic habitat in many areas. In addition, many of the gas companies are reusing up to 100 percent of the flowback fluids for other hydrofracturing sites.
Q: Can a private landowner sell water to the natural gas industry if its property has a pond, an old well or a stream?
Yes. The private landowner can sell water but must apply to and receive SRBC approval for the withdrawal as with any other public or business interest.

Q: What does a private landowner have to do to sell water to the gas industry?
In most instances, natural gas companies submit the applications to withdraw water from privately owned lands after reaching agreements with the landowner. However, private landowners may submit applications directly to SRBC requesting approval for a withdrawal and bulk sale of that water to the natural gas industry. The landowner must demonstrate, through written agreements, that one or more natural gas companies have committed to purchase the water. The application process including forms, fees and notices is the same as for other project sponsors. Information about the process and the appropriate forms are available on SRBC's website.
Q: How much water from public water suppliers has been used?
Between June 2008 and October 2010, according to the post-hydrofracture reports for 338 wells in the Pennsylvania portion of the basin, about 314 million gallons which equates to about 38 percent of the water used in hydrofracturing has been provided by public water suppliers. Public water suppliers are second, only behind surface water withdrawals, in preference as water sources for the natural gas industry. Due to the coordinated nature of the review for a bulk water purchase from public water suppliers, it is usually "easier" for a natural gas company to get approved to use these sources than new withdrawal points. This allows for operations to commence faster, allowing time for permitting and constructing surface water withdrawals. The recent trend has been for natural gas companies to rely more heavily on their own surface withdrawals.
Q: When considering a request to transfer fracing fluids into the Susquehanna basin, what issues would be evaluated?
As for any in-basin diversion, SRBC staff would evaluate the water quality of the proposed water source, the proposed use within the basin and the project's location. SRBC staff would assess the potential of the proposed diversion to result in water quality degradation that may be injurious to any existing or potential groundwater or surface water use. If the water were to be used for hydrofracturing, quality impacts from discharge would not be significant but adequate controls during transport and containment and storage on-site would likely be evaluated to insure that the integrity of the basin's waters would not be adversely affected. Staff would also consider public concerns and any mitigating circumstances.
This article was submitted by Susan Obleski, director of communications, Susquehanna River Basin Commission. She can be reached by email at Information was compiled largely from existing products collaboratively produced by SRBC staff."

Not my work - great article

Delaware River Basin Commission - Are the regulations going to far - Do we really understand the risk or are we running scared?

"DRBC regs go too far (editorial in the River Reporter)


The natural gas regulations proposed by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) have impacts and implications that go far beyond putting a short leash on drilling companies. A group of more than a dozen landowner groups, businesses and business associations from the Upper Basin region have joined forces to mount an initiative to call this to the public’s attention.

In the coalition are Cherry Ridge Realty, the Lackawaxen-Honesdale Shippers Association, the Lower Wayne Property Owners Association, the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance, Reilly Associates Engineers, the Rural Bethel Landowners’ Coalition, Schaefer Enterprises of Deposit, The Starlight Forum (landowners group), the Sullivan-Delaware Property Owners Association, the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, the Wayne Economic Development Corporation, the Wayne Pike County Farm Bureau and Woodland Design Associates.
The way these rules are written would amount to a de facto ban on gas exploration and production in our region. The regulations stipulate, for example, that drilling pads must be separated by at least 500 feet from any body of water or wetland, no matter how tiny or seasonal it may be. Based on studies of several Upper Basin properties done by a professional engineer, this would rule out gas activity on roughly 99% of the open land lying in the river basin in Wayne and Sullivan counties. Moreover, the few areas that would qualify for use under these rules are typically too small for the purpose and couldn’t be reached with access roads.
The rules also assign vast decision-making powers to the DRBC’s executive director and the commission staff. In effect, this gives them unbridled authority to stop gas activities at any time for almost any reason. There are also no time limits for the commission to act on permit applications. Contrast that with Pennsylvania’s Oil and Gas Act, for example, which specifies that permits must be issued within 45 days of receipt of properly completed applications. The state act also allows distance restrictions to be waived in certain circumstances if the drilling company is willing to take extra steps to reduce the risk of accidents.
It is also a matter of concern that the DRBC establishes legal precedents with its rules and determinations. If the regulations now under review are adopted without significant change, the commission could then use them as precedents to impose similarly crippling rules on agriculture and timber harvesting as well as commercial and even residential development. The governance of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in matters of land use and economic development would be superseded by a super-agency that has shown little or no concern for the economic well-being of the people living in the Upper Basin.
The DRBC has offered no real reason for intruding into the commonwealth’s domain. The proposed rules say the goal is to protect the waters of the Delaware and the forests in the environmentally sensitive headwaters region, but there’s no documentation included to show that the states’ oversight in these areas has been deficient. As measured by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) criteria, stream quality in Wayne County has been improving year after year. The percentage of land covered by forests has been increasing for decades and, in its 2010 revision of the state’s Chapter 102 Erosion and Sediment Control regulations, the DEP has greatly tightened rules that had done a good job already.
Residents of the Upper Delaware region are urged to make their feelings known to the DRBC and to the federal and state legislators who ultimately have a say in the conduct of the commission. Information on the DRBC’s hearings in Honesdale, PA, Liberty, NY and Trenton, NJ and guidance on how to submit written comments can be found at online. Written comments on the proposed regulations can be posted directly at the National Park Service website at .

[Peter Wynne is media spokesman for the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance, whose membership includes 1,300-plus land-owning families and organizations having title to upward of 100,000 acres.]

New Fund Launched To Support Landowner Conservation Practices in Northeast Pennsylvania- Grants Available

New Fund Launched To Support Landowner Conservation Practices

Grants Available For Actions That Protect Forests & Drinking Water Quality

February 14, 2011 Milford PA - A new million-dollar grant program for private landowners in the upper Delaware River Basin to implement watershed forestry practices was launched today at Forest owners in three states will be eligible to receive financial assistance for implementing sustainable forest management projects on their property.
“Ensuring healthy forests in the Upper Delaware Watershed is critical to maintaining quality drinking water for 15 million water users,” said Carol Collier, Chair of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, which administers the program. “We want to support landowners in these priority areas as they take important steps to maintain their forests over the long term.”
The Common Waters Fund will provide incentives to qualifying landowners to implement forest stewardship plans, watershed forestry management practices, and/or conservation easements over the next two years. The first quarterly deadline for applying is May 2nd and the first grants will be made in June. The initial financing for the Fund comes from the United States Endowment for Forestry and Communities. The Common Waters Fund is one of several pilot programs they are supporting, with the aim of linking “forest and faucets” around the country. In the future the Fund hopes to attract more investors interested in protecting sources of drinking water.
“Development, fragmentation, and other issues threaten the health of our forests as well as the infrastructure functions that they provide. More than 180 million Americans get their drinking water from forests,” said Carlton Owen, President and CEO of the Endowment. “Finding ways to incent private landowners to care for their forests today will help protect source water for years to come.”
Grants up to $25,000 will be available for eligible landowners, qualified land trusts and timber harvesting operators for the following:
• Forest Stewardship Plans - Forest owners can apply for funds to have a forester write a new or upgraded forest stewardship plan for their property.

• Forest Management Practices - Landowners can apply for funds to offset the costs of implementing certain forest management practices that will improve forest health and protect water quality.

• Conservation Easements - The Common Waters Fund will provide financial assistance to qualified 501(C)3 land trusts to assist with expenses related to placing a conservation easement on a property.

• Timber Bridges - Logging operators can apply for funds to defray the cost of construction, purchase, or rental of portable timber/skid bridges to minimize erosion and sedimentation on streams in priority areas.
“This is a terrific opportunity for landowners who care about the health of their forest,” said Sue Currier, Executive Director of the Delaware Highlands Conservancy, a partner in the Common Waters initiative. “We are looking for landowners who have always wanted to do right by their forests but couldn't afford the upfront investment."
Interested landowners should visit the web site,, to learn more about eligibility and program requirements and to download an application. They are also urged to contact their County Coordinator listed below for help with their application. More than two dozen partner organizations are part of the Common Waters initiative, including the Delaware River Basin Commission, county conservation districts and planning departments, the National Park Service, and state forestry agencies. A full list can be found at
Regional and County Coordinators for the Common Waters Fund
New Jersey
Sussex County Soil Conservation District
Clifford Lundin, 973-579-5074
Warren County Soil Conservation District
Tim Matthews, 908-852-2579

New York

Catskill Forest Association
Ryan Trapani, 845-586-3054

Sullivan County Soil & Water Conservation District
Brian Brustman, 845-292-6552


Pike County Conservation District
Susan Beecher, 570-226-8220

Wayne Conservation District
Paul Reining, 570-253-0930

Monroe County Conservation District
Victor Motts, 570-629-3060

Other Project Partners
Pocono Northeast RC&D Council

About the Pinchot Institute for Conservation

The mission of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation ( is to advance conservation and sustainable natural resource management by developing innovative, practical, and broadly-supported solutions to conservation challenges and opportunities. The Pinchot Institute accomplishes this through nonpartisan research, education and technical assistance on key issues influencing the future of conservation and sustainable natural resource development.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Private Water Well Owners Free Water Quality Manual for Private Well Owners in Pennsylvania


Private Water Well Owners
Wilkes University just recently created and released a new free publication titled "Water Quality - Your Private Well What Do the Results Mean?" The publication is written by three professional geologist from Wilkes University.

The goal of the document is to "help citizens interpret the results of a recent baseline water quality analysis of your drinking water. The document provides general information explaining the drinking water regulations and standards, provides information related to the acute or aesthetic concern for each parameter, and should be used as an aid to help you interpret your results.In some cases, this document provides guidance on whatactions you may want to consider."

This document is part of the University's outreach and eduational in Northeastern Pennsylvania. To obtain a free copy of the publication,

In addition, Wilkes University is working on the first Citizen Groundater Quality Database.  We need your help to document the quality of the water in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  If you had baseline testing completed for your source and it was either paid by your or a third party and the well was sampled following chain-of-custody practices and submitted to a third party laboratory, WE NEED Your HELP and WE NEED Your Data !  To become part of this Community Effort - please go to "Citizen Water Quality Database".    If you have questions about baseline testing - Visit our Informational Page.    On the information page, you will find information on suggested water quality tests, information on baseline testing, and listing for certified laboratories in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The database will not include any personal information - this is all confidential.

Also - need some education and training for your group - Request Assistance.

This notice also applies to:

Master Well Owners
Farmers in Northeastern Pennsylvania
Bottle Water Operators
Spring water Companies
Private Water Wells in Pennsylvania
Watershed Monitoring Organizations
Waterdogs and Citizen Scientists
Marcellus Shale Gas Wells and Your Private Well
Groundwater Users in Rural Pennsylvania

Drinking Water Treatment System

Concerns related to marcellus shale well construction - Even after Regulatory Changes

The following are my primary concerns related to the construction of the Marcellus Shale Wells

1. String Placement and Design - needs to take into consideration the geology and hydrology for the site - the simple statement of 50 feet below freshwater, but not more than 200 feet is not adequate.

String Placement - Needs to be Standardized - but Site Specific.


1. First String - should prevent the circulation of mud, cuttings, and gas migration to the wells within the first 500 feet from the well. Casing needs centralizers every 2 lengths of casing and the cement needs to be filled from base and returned to surface. This will likely need the installation of an extra casing that extends to a depth of 300 to 500 feet.
2. Second String - should extend into the first confining layer below the freshwater aquifer and should separate the freshwater from saline water - This will likely need to be in the depth range of 750 to 1200 feet.
3. The third string need to separate the saline from brine water and should be placed within a confining layer.  This will likely need to be between 1200 to 2000 feet
4. Fourth String may be needed to separate saline and brine water aquifers - especially if shallow gas is present.  This may need to extend to about 2500 feet
5. Typically the kick off point is 500 feet above the Target Formation - then the horizontal leg is completed, the production casing is then cemented to 500 to 1000 feet above the kick off point or to the surface. 

Potential Problem - Depending on the string layout - it is possible that there could be a 1000 to 2000 foot zone beneath the final or deepest string and the production casing that has zero cement.  This seems to be a potential problem.  It would be best if the annulus above the production casing was cemented to the surface or at least cemented to 100 feet inside the lowest string. 

6. Cement bonding testing - this has been implemented.
7. Installing on-site monitoring wells to a depth to the lowest portion of the freshwater aquifer.

This would should help with the potential problem of gas migration and the interconnection or exposure of the casing to corrosive fluids and gases.

Keys -we need to make sure we have recreated the confining layers in the formations, good cement bonding, and limit the potential for migration of gases, liquids, and muds.

This is a work in progress.

Training Courses for Well Drillers and Water Treatment Specialists

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

EPA's Draft Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan Marcellus Shale Study

"EPA's Draft Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan

In its Fiscal Year 2010 budget report, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriation Conference Committee identified the need for a focused study of this topic. EPA scientists, under this administration and at the direction of Congress, are undertaking a study of this practice to better understand any potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water and groundwater. EPA consulted with experts in the field through peer review, and technical workshops and engaged stakeholders in a dialogue about the study through facilitated public meetings.

EPA has submitted its draft study plan on hydraulic fracturing for review to the agency's Science Advisory Board (SAB).
The overall purpose of the study is to understand the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources. The scope of the proposed research includes the full lifespan of water in hydraulic fracturing, from acquisition of the water, through the mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the post-fracturing stage, including the management of flowback and produced water and its ultimate treatment and disposal.
The SAB plans to review the draft plan March 7-8, 2011. Consistent with the operating procedures of the SAB, an opportunity will be provided for stakeholders and the public to provide comments to the SAB during their review. The Agency will revise the study plan in response to the SAB's comments and promptly begin the study. Initial research results are expected by the end of 2012 with a goal for a report in 2014."

For additional information:

Science Advisory Board Review Request PDF
Hydraulic Fracturing Draft Study Plan PDF
Press release on Draft Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan


Saturday, February 5, 2011

What is Chain-of-Custody- Baseline Testing and Training for Community

What is Chain of Custody?
This is a legal term that refers to the ability to guarantee the identification and integrity of samples from collection through reporting of test results. For the purpose of litigation, it is necessary to prove the legal integrity of all samples and data as part of the chain of evidence. Therefore, it is necessary to have and accurate written history for the sample. This history should include sample bottle preparation, bottle possession, handling, and location of samples and data from the time of collection through reporting. This can be conducted by using chain-of-custody procedures.

“Since there is no way to know in advance which samples and data may be involved in litigation, you should always follow chain-of-custody procedures whenever samples and data are collected, transferred, stored, analyzed, or destroyed.”

Samples and data are considered to be in your custody when:
1. they are in your physical possession;
2. they are in your view, after being in your physical possession;
3. they are in your physical possession and then locked up so that tampering cannot occur; and
4. they are kept in a secured area, with access restricted to authorized personnel only.

The six steps in a chain-of-custody process include:
Step 1. Sampling Preparations
Step 2. Sampling Operations- short term/ long term
Step 3. Sample Transport
Step 4. Receipt, Storage, and Transfer
Step 5. Sample Analysis
Step 6. Procedures for Data (Reporting/Storage/ Management)
More to come

EPA - Training Program with Certificate of Completion

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Regular Session 2011-2012 House Bill 233 Pennsylvania Moratorium on the issuance of new well permits in Marcellus


Providing for a moratorium on the issuance of new well permits for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation.

The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hereby enacts as follows:

Section 1. Short title.
This act shall be known and may be cited as the Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Drilling Permit Moratorium Act.

Section 2. Definitions.
The following words and phrases when used in this act shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

"Marcellus Shale formation." A carbonaceous, organic-rich Middle Devonian-age black, low-density shale situated at the base of the Hamilton Group and strategically positioned above the Onondaga formation.

Section 3. Moratorium.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, there is hereby established a moratorium upon the issuance of new well permits under the act of December 19, 1984 (P.L.1140, No.223), known as the Oil and Gas Act, for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation in this Commonwealth. The purpose of the moratorium shall be to provide additional time to enact and approve appropriate laws and regulations to protect the public health and safety.

Section 4. Expiration.
The moratorium under section 3 shall expire one year after the effective date of this section.

Section 20. Effective date.
This act shall take effect immediately.

My comments:
1. We need new laws - pass them without delays.
2. This does not solve the problem or concerns related to old permits.
3. Ok with Moratorium on new state land leases - but prohibiting private landowners is not appropriate.