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Ohio Utica Shale

New York to kick off December hearings on new fracking rules

By Bob Downing Published: November 30, 2012

From the Associated Press:

A revised set of proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing natural gas has been released by New York environmental officials who will begin taking public comment on them in December.

The voluminous technical document was made public by the Department of Environmental Conservation on its website Wednesday, a day before the deadline for adopting rules for the controversial drilling known as "fracking" or making changes and allowing more comment. It has been a year since the last public hearings on the original proposal. New York has not yet approved the technology, which drillers want to use to tap gas in the Marcellus Shale formation.

The first round of hearings on regulations proposed in 2011 generated 80,000 comments, which DEC officials said slowed their review and revision of the proposal. It said the latest changes include a number responding to the original comments. The agency said Thursday the changes allow it to extend the review process and take into account a pending analysis by the state health department.

Calls by opponents for an independent study of potential health threats from the drilling were rejected by the Cuomo administration, which instead asked state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to oversee an assessment of health issues.

"DEC will not take any final action until after Dr. Shah's health review is completed," agency spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said. "This action merely extends the rule-making period to enable DEC to take into account Dr. Shah's review."

The DEC said it will take written comments on the latest revisions from Dec. 12 until Jan. 11.

Hydraulic fracturing injects millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals into wells to crack the shale and free the gas. It has divided environmental and business interests at odds over potential harm to water and other resources and the potential for tapping an abundant supply of gas and creating jobs.

One of the major objections raised by environmental groups was that the regulations didn't spell out how drillers should dispose of the enormous volume of wastewater produced from fracked wells. The revised regulations leave it up to drillers to say how they'll dispose of the wastewater while complying with various pollution rules. The regulations say the driller "must have an approvable plan identifying the ultimate disposition" of wastewater, and must also submit an acceptable contingency plan to be used if the primary plan turns out to be unworkable.

According to the DEC documents, among the other revisions are removing a $2 million cap on financial security that drillers must put up based on anticipated costs of plugging and abandonment of a well, potentially requiring them to put up more; stronger requirements for plugging and abandonment of wells; stricter disclosure requirements for fracking chemicals; a 15-day public comment period on permit applications; and provisions for collection of fees.

Regarding the industry's costs for complying with the regulations, the documents say the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York estimated costs would range from $400,000 to $1.7 million for the first well drilled on a well pad. The DEC said its own cost assessment found the industry estimate to be excessive.

The documents also say enforcing the regulations and overseeing shale gas development will create additional cost for the DEC and the state departments of health and transportation, but that those costs can't be calculated accurately at this point.

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Utica and Marcellus shale web sites

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.