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New Regs Proposed to Protect Susquehanna

SRBC to hold October hearings on natural gas industry use.

On Monday, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission announced that public hearings are set for Oct. 21 and 22 in Pennsylvania and New York State, respectively. They'll be held for public comment on proposed regulatory revisions to protect the basin's water resources and streamline the review of consumptive water uses by the natural gas industry. SRBC's proposed revisions are open for public comment through Oct. 31.

The proposed revisions affecting the natural gas industry include:

  • All requests for consumptive water use approval would to go through SRBC's approval by rule process – an administrative procedure – rather than SRBC's standard application process.
  • Expand the rule process to allow utilizing a broader range of water sources, including public water supplies, discharges from wastewater treatment facilities and other lesser quality water sources.
  • Regulate projects on a drilling pad basis, instead of a company-lease area basis.
  • Require projects to demonstrate compliance with state and/or federal law for the treatment and disposal of flow-back or produced fluids, including brines.
  • Require that all quantities of water withdrawn or used for natural gas well development be reviewed effective Oct. 15, 2008.
  • Limit SRBC approval to five years.

"We expect the demand for water from the natural gas industry to continue increasing for some time," says SRBC Executive Director Paul Swartz. "The proposed regulatory changes will allow the Commission to address this increasing demand in a more orderly fashion."

SRBC doesn't regulate water quality. But SRBC would require projects to separately account for the proper treatment and disposal of all fluids or brines produced during the hydrofacing process.

Where and when the hearings will be

One will be held at Williamsport, Pa., on Oct. 21, at 7 p.m., at Lycoming College's Academic Center in Lecture Hall Room D001 on Mulberry Street.

The Oct. 22 hearing will be held at Binghamton, N.Y., at 7 p.m., at Binghamton University. It'll be conducted in the Lecture Hall Complex, Lecture Hall 1, at Route 434 (VestalParkway East).

Persons planning to present oral testimony at a public hearing should provide prior notice to Richard Cairo, 717 238-0423, ext 306; Fax: 717 238-2436; E-mail rcairo@srbc.net.

The proposed changes are available on SRBC's Web site at www.srbc.net/programs/projreviewmarcellus.htm. Written comments can be submitted on or before Oct. 31, 2008 to Cairo.

The agency is scheduled to take final action on the proposed regulatory changes at its next quarterly meeting on Dec. 4.

More than 72 percent of the tri-state Susquehanna watershed, covering portions of New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland, are underlain by the Marcellus and other organic-rich shale formations. Advancements in technology for capturing natural gas in those shale formations require operators to inject large amounts of water under pressure several thousand feet underground to fracture the formation to stimulate the flow of gas. For more information on SRBC's regulation of natural gas well development projects, go to SRBC's web site at www.srbc.net/programs/projreviewmarcellus.htm.

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