DEC to take public comments on fracking regs starting December 12

Nov 30, 2012

The DEC has decided that the traditional holiday period is the ideal time to aggregate public comments on its Proposed Regulations for High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing with public comment commencing on December 12 and running until January 11th.*

Thursday, November 29th marked the extinction of a regulatory deadline for the filing of the revised deadlines, but the DEC (in a totally surprise move) filed for a 90-day extension of the review period with the N.Y. Department of State utilizing a provision of the SAPA (State Administrative Procedures Act).

To save you about 45 minutes of your life, here is the bulk of the revision. (59 pages out of 90)

In the initial part of the document there are a number of semantic alterations relating to the titles or descriptions of officials or overseeing departments who would regulate fracking.

A closer read through the documentation emphasizes the burden of documentation placed on drilling operators who would be required to provide data from a number of categories to DEC monitoring officials upon request.

Page 16 of this article, states:

Any owner or operator desiring to intentionally deviate a well from the vertical shall [first make written application to] notify the department of such proposed deviation on the application to drill, deepen, plug back or convert a well.  

Not being an engineer I could be wrong, but this article would seem to refer to a variation from the vertical to the horizontal trajectory for drilling operations. 

(e)  The [application] notice must be accompanied by a neat, legible [plat] plan view drawn to scale which [shows the well, all offsetting leases and the wells located thereon, the pool in which they are completed, and the names of the offsetting operators] identifies the surface location, top of target interval, bottom of target.

So let's talk about the sub-department of the Department of Environmental Conservation in New York, the  Division of Mineral Resources which,  

 is responsible for ensuring the environmentally sound, economic development of New York's non-renewable energy and mineral resources for the benefit of current and future generations.

Division of Mineral Resources 

This is the department within the DEC that would be doing the heavy lifting on permits and regulation if fracking is permitted. That's to say that the division's regional supervisors would carry much of the responsibility for oversight of fracking regulations given that they act as 

the [chief’s] director's deputy in all relevant matters.

Leaseholders who have active operations on their land can expect to have a view of venting gas: 

through a flare stack at least 30 feet in height, unless the absence of H2S has been demonstrated at a previous well on the same pad which was completed in the same producing horizon. Gas vented through the flare stack must be ignited whenever possible. The stack must be equipped with a self-ignition device.

Lobbyists for the industry launched a new campaign in support of the practice on Tuesday, as opponents announced a new website intended to accumulate fracking-related health data ahead of the analysis of the DEC's own health impact assessment by three external experts contracted before Thanksgiving. 

*The DEC was required to release components of the draft regulation as part of the extension-request process.

The diligent Tom Wilber has more detail on this current episode of the story at his most excellent Shale Gas Review.

Tom also directs us to some insights by the New York Times' Andrew Revkin on the potential role for 'citizen monitoring' of fracking operations, if they are allowed to proceed in March 2013.

Correction: A previous iteration of this post incorrectly said that the extension was filed with the U.S. Department of State. It was with the New York Department of State. 

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