WV DEP Permit Would Control Run-Off From Oil, Gas Sites

The State Journal
9 March 2012
By Pam Kasey

A draft general permit to regulate the discharge of stormwater run-off from construction at oil and gas-related sites is available for public comment through April 19.

The state Department of Environmental Protection's proposed general permit will regulate discharges of stormwater, not from well pads, but from activities associated with exploration, production, processing or treatment operations or transmission facilities that disturb one acre of land area or more.

A general permit is designed to regulate common activities through the use of an easily completed application and standard language.

This proposed permit addresses an area that federal law exempts but that state law authorizes the DEP to regulate, according to Division of Water and Waste Management Director Scott Mandirola.

"If someone's constructing an oil and gas well site, their permit will have erosion and sediment control requirements in it by law," Mandirola explained. "But pipelines and certain compressor and pump stations don't fall under that. In some cases, say, for a pipeline, you're talking about 50-foot- to 100-foot-wide areas that go on for miles."

If the construction-related stormwater run-off causes a water quality violation, the department's enforcement personnel will act, he said — but until a violation takes place, there currently is nothing requiring operators to control run-off.

The draft permit, Mandirola said, is based on the state's existing construction stormwater permit but without any reference  to the federal law that authorizes that. The authority for this is the state's Water Pollution Control Act.

"This will put these activities on an even footing with every other industry in the state that's doing construction activity greater than an acre," he said.

While many operators act responsibly, he said, some even getting permits voluntarily, the proposed permit will impose the same standards on those who currently end up violating water quality standards. It will prevent those violations.

The public is invited to comment on the draft permit.

The permit may be inspected by appointment between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday at the DEP office at 610 57th Street SE in Charleston. Copies also may be obtained at a nominal cost.

Comments may be mailed to the Department of Environmental Protection, Attention: Tonya Ombler, 601 57th Street, SE, Charleston, WV 25304, or e-mailed to Tonya.K.Ombler@wv.gov. Correspondence should include the name, address and telephone number of the writer and a concise statement of the nature of the issues being raised.

In addition, a public hearing has been scheduled for 6 p.m. on April 9, 2012, at the DEP's Coopers Rock Training Room in its Charleston offices. Oral and written comments will be taken at that time.

For more information, contact Tonya Ombler at 304-926-0499, extension 1132.