The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is working to minimize the impact to Ohio waters of tapping deep underground shale while providing the drilling industry with an effective and efficient permitting process.
The agency has issued what's called a draft general permit for wetland and stream impacts at Utica and Marcellus shale gas well sites in eastern Ohio.
It is seeking public comment on the proposal through Friday, Jan. 13.
Under the draft general permits, authorized wetland-stream impacts at each well site are limited to no more than 0.5 acre of low- to medium-quality wetlands and 300 feet of streams.
Qualifying activities include the construction of drilling pads, reserve and mud pits, fresh water and flowback water storage ponds, transmission lines and access roads.
Applicants are required to mitigate any approved wetland and stream impacts by contributing to the preservation, restoration or replacement of Ohio's water resources.
Because the general permit would limit impacts, the EPA could review and decide on a permit within 30 days of receiving a completed application, the agency said.
Applicants wanting to impact larger areas or a high-quality wetlands and streams will need to obtain an individual permit which is subject to a more-detailed review that may last up to six months.
In both cases, applicants will also need approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The EPA says the new permit system is designed to balance environmental protection and the needs of drilling companies.
The draft general permit and related information are available here.
Comments may be submitted to email@example.com or Ohio EPA, Division of Surface Water, Attention Permits Processing Unit. P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, OH 43216.
The permit is expected to be finalized and made available to drillers in early 2012, the EPA says.
It shares responsibility on drilling with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
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.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
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.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.