On September 28, 2011, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) released its proposed regulations on hydraulic fracturing.  These regulations follow a July 1, 2011 draft supplemental generic environmental impact statement (“SGEIS”) (see July 11, 2011 edition of the WER).  The DEC will take public comments on its proposed rules in a set of hearings beginning in mid-November, and accept written comments through December 12, 2011. 

The DEC proposed regulations touch on a variety of issues, including some administrative changes, but most attempt to address mitigation measures highlighted in the SGEIS.   The SGEIS required drillers to use three layers of cemented well casings in order to prevent gas from leaking into drinking water supplies.  Second, the SGEIS required drillers to take several steps to better control fracking fluids and any “produced water” used in the fracking process.  Third, the DEC would monitor the disposal of produced water, production brine, drill cuttings, and other drilling waste streams produced in the process.  And finally, drillers will have to disclose to the DEC and the public all of the chemicals used in their operations.

Notably, DEC’s proposed regulations deal with various issues related to high volume hydraulic fracturing, and:

  • prohibit surface disturbance associated with the drilling of a natural gas well on State owned lands;
  • remove the blanket bond available to operators who drill multiple wells and extend the term of a permit to drill, deepen, plug back or convert a well from six months to two years;
  • set well spacing limits for various types of gas pools;
  • specify that before the issuance of a well-drilling permit to drill, deepen, plug back or convert a well for any operation in which the probability exists that brine, salt water or other polluting fluids will be produced or obtained, the operator must submit and receive approval for a plan for the environmentally safe and proper ultimate disposal of such fluids;
  • set specific limits and guidelines for hydraulic fracturing operations, including: (1) secondary containment for additive containers and staging areas; (2) monitoring of annuli available at the surface; (3) suspension of pumping operations if anomalous pressure or flow condition; and (4) two vacuum trucks on standby at the well site during hydraulic fracturing fluid pumping and during flowback;
  • impose additional setbacks for hydraulic fracturing for surface activities;
  • promulgate the well testing, recordkeeping and reporting requirements in the SGEIS; and 
  • impose requirements for well operators to test residential water wells within a specified distance from the proposed gas well. 

A copy of DEC’s proposed regulations is available here.