State extends drilling comment period
FINGER LAKES—The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has extended the comment period for the proposed regulations of high-volume hydraulic fracturing. The new deadline is Jan. 11.
The DEC received more than 13,000 public comments on the draft supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) issued in September 2009. The Draft SGEIS addresses permit conditions required for gas drilling in Marcellus Shale and other areas of the state. The SGEIS is viewable online at http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/75370.html.
Paper submissions can be mailed or delivered to: Attn: dSGEIS Comments, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 625 Broadway, Albany, N.Y. 12233-6510. Please include the name, address, and affiliation (if any) of the commenter.
According to the DEC, high-volume hydraulic fracturing is a well stimulation technique that has increased the ability to extract natural gas from very tight rock. High-volume hydraulic fracturing, which is often used in conjunction with horizontal drilling and multi-well pad development, is an approach to extracting natural gas in New York that raises new, potentially significant, adverse impacts not studied in 1992 in the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (Department or DEC) previous Generic Environmental Impact Statement (1992 GEIS) on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program.
High-volume hydraulic fracturing is distinct from other types of well completion that have been allowed in the State under the 1992 GEIS and Department permits due to the much larger volumes of water and additives used to conduct hydraulic fracturing operations. The use of high-volume hydraulic fracturing with horizontal well drilling technology allows multiple wells to be drilled from a single well pad (multi-pad wells).
Although horizontal drilling results in fewer well pads than traditional vertical well drilling, the pads are larger and the industrial activity taking place on the pads is more intense. Also, hydraulic fracturing requires chemical additives, some of which may pose hazards when highly concentrated. The extra water associated with such drilling may also result in significant adverse impacts relating to water supplies, wastewater treatment and disposal and truck traffic. Horizontal wells also generate greater volumes of drilling waste.
The final SGEIS will apply statewide, except in areas that the Department proposes should be off-limits to surface drilling for natural gas using high-volume hydraulic fracturing technology.
These areas include the watersheds associated with unfiltered water supplied to the New York City and Syracuse areas pursuant to Filtration Avoidance Determinations issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), reforestation areas, wildlife management areas, and “primary” aquifers as defined by state regulations, and additional setback and buffer areas. Forest Preserve land in the Adirondacks and Catskills is already off-limits to natural gas development pursuant to the New York State Constitution. Groups and municipalities within the Finger Lakes have called on the state to include Keuka, Seneca, and other Finger Lakes watersheds in the ban.