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DEP, DEC and DRBC: drilling updates

By SANDY LONG

NARROWSBURG, NY — Three of the agencies that oversee matters related to natural gas extraction in the Upper Delaware River region presented updates at the January 8 meeting of the Upper Delaware Council in Narrowsburg.

Pamela Bush, commission secretary and assistant general counsel of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) said that the DRBC has reached an informal agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in which the DRBC will rely on Pennsylvania’s drilling application requirements and add additional requirements unique to the DRBC.

According to Bush, these will likely include that applicants must provide a state-approved sedimentation and erosion control plan, as well as a non-point source pollution control plan for wells located in the drainage areas for special protection waters. The DRBC will also ask for a detailed flood plain map and will discourage projects in the floodplain.

The agency plans to require “gas characteristics testing” to determine the “chemical signature” of the gas in a given well, along with wastewater handling and disposal information, including onsite storage, the name of the designated treatment plant and a requirement for screening analysis of wastewater. The DRBC has not yet defined its role with New York State.

William Manner, environmental program manager for the DEP, is also involved with the development of Pennsylvania’s State Water Plan. Manner said a new plan will be released in the next several months, containing a section specific to the Delaware River. Manner works in the watershed management program in the DEP’s Northeast Regional office and said that he will provide the UDC with future updates on the DEP’s work with the Marcellus Shale.

“Pennsylvania’s been in the gas business since the 1800s, mostly in Western Pennsylvania, so we have a long history with it, but the Marcellus Shale is totally different,” said Manner. “We are getting up to speed quickly.”

Pennsylvania has had a hiring freeze since early December, but according to Manner, Governor Edward Rendell has approved 37 new positions for Marcellus Shale activities. “There is one person in my Wilkes-Barre office right now,” he said. “There will be more.”

William Rudge, Region Three natural resources supervisor of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), said that the public comment phase of the draft supplemental generic environmental impact statement (DSGEIS) is complete and that DEC staff are finalizing the document, which is expected to be released by the end of January.

In addition, Rudge noted that the Draft 2009 Open Space Conservation Plan is now complete and that public comment will be accepted until February 27. The public hearing in Region Three is scheduled for January 22 at Bear Mountain State Park in Bear Mountain, NY.

Rudge added that a temporary regulation prohibiting the transport of firewood more than 50 miles to prevent the spread of insects and disease may become permanent under a proposed regulation. A public hearing is scheduled for January 20 and comments will be accepted through February 8. See www.ny.gov and search firewood for more information.