Agencies address drilling
DRBC sees first application for 999,999 gallons of water; DEC talks tougher regulations

Narrowsburg NY River Reporter
13 November 2008
By Sandy Long

NARROWSBURG, NY — Officials from two agencies with gas drilling regulatory authority shared news and agency perspectives with members of the Upper Delaware Council at their monthly meeting on November 6.

“We now have our first application and it’s from Chesapeake [Energy] {and it’s for water withdrawal,” said Carol Collier, executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). “They are looking at the East Branch [of the Delaware River] and looking at a maximum of 999,999 gallons of water a day. We’ll be working with New York State on that,” said Collier.

Water issues related to natural gas extraction continued to be discussed by William Janeway, Region 3 regional director for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), who cited four “commitments” that the agency has made in relation to drilling.

The first was an assurance that the process of drilling would be subject to a thorough environmental review. “We have extensive experience regulating and permitting natural gas and other resources in the western part of the state, but there are some things about Marcellus Shale that are different.” Due to those differences, the DEC is implementing a heightened level of environmental review.

Second, Janeway said the DEC has also requested and is getting information from the gas companies regarding the content of the fracking fluids. “We’ll be looking at that carefully and making sure we’re comfortable with what’s being used,” he said.

The third commitment focuses on the large volumes of water used in the fracking process and the storage of water contaminated by the process. Janeway noted that the DEC will be evaluating whether storage in lined pits that are open to the air is adequate. “That’s something we’re going to take a very hard look at and not proceed with permitting until we’re satisfied that the environmental issues are fully addressed,” he said.

The fourth commitment focused on what will happen to the contaminated water beyond the storage period. Janeway said the DEC will need to know where the water will end up and what will be done with it. He noted, “We’re not going to get started unless we’re assured that there is a proper place for that to go at the end.”

The DEC has currently stopped processing permits, and Janeway said that the agency is considering increased regulations. “We have very good controls in place, but the reason we’re not processing permits right now is that there may be some additional controls we need to put in place. We anticipate improving our current restrictions before this activity proceeds.”

When asked about the adequacy of current staffing levels to meet the demand of permitting and inspections, Janeway said, “If activity levels do pick up, given that our staffing is frozen at a constant level, our ability to process and issue permits will go into a slower mode because of the need to insure that we are able to effectively oversee the permitting process and the field inspections that we’re obliged to do. The commissioner has said to us, ‘We can not compromise in any way on our responsibilities to oversee and make sure through inspections that no one’s cutting any corners.’”

Janeway further defined the DEC’s perspective. “As a department, we are in part excited about the economic potential of this incredible natural resource, the potential for us to have some cleaner fuel and be less dependent on other countries for some of our energy. That’s exciting to us and our governor, but at the same time, we’re absolutely committed to not compromising one iota on our mandate of protecting the environmental resources and protecting the water.”

The DEC is holding a series of public input sessions on its draft scope documents of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement that will be used to create the regulations for natural gas drilling. The document is available at and the local hearing will be held at the Sullivan County Community College Field House in Loch Sheldrake on December 4, beginning at 4:30 p.m.