DEP Files Drilling Rule

Opponents say regulations not strong enough

Morgantown Dominion Post
23 August 2011
The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) filed an emergency rule Monday with the Secretary of State’s Office regarding oversight of horizontal gas well development.

The rule conforms to the instructions acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin spelled out in his July 12 executive order to the DEP.
The rule takes effect after approval by the secretary of state and remains in effect for 15 months. Among the requirements:
An erosion and sediment control plan and site construction plan, certified by a registered professional engineer.
A well site safety plan for well work permit applications involving well sites that disturb 3 acres or more of surface.

A water management plan if the operator intends to use more than 210,000 gallons of water during any one-month period. The water management plan shall include information, such as type of water source; the counties from which water withdrawals will be taken; latitude anticipated volume of each withdrawal and anticipated months withdrawals will be made; planned management and disposition of wastewater from fracturing and production activities; a listing of anticipated additives to be used in the water for fracturing; and, upon well completion, the listing of actual additives that were used.

Permit applicants drilling within the boundaries of any municipality are required to place a legal newspaper advertisement in the area where the well is proposed. No well work permit will be issued until 30 days notice has been provided to the public.

Record-keeping requirements for the quantity of flowback water from hydraulic fracturing and the method of management or disposal of the flowback.

Drill cuttings and drilling mud be disposed of in an approved solid waste facility.

Casing and cementing standards to prevent the migration of gas and other fluids into fresh ground water and coal seams.

“We must work hard to make sure our efforts to capitalize on opportunities such as the Marcellus Shale are regulated responsibly and done in ways that protect our citizens and the environment. I believe this emergency rule is a key first step to accomplishing that goal, but there is much work to be done,” Tomblin said in the statement.

DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said: “This is not the end of the debate, but only the first step in addressing the myriad of concerns our citizens have regarding this practice. ... We look forward to working with the Legislature to ensure a comprehensive approach to regulating horizontal drilling is addressed.”

The Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia (IOGA WV) praised the DEP’s action.

“IOGA WV is in favor of reasonable and measured regulation for Marcellus shale drilling that would promote the growth of the industry, while protecting West Virginia citizens and our environment. DEP Secretary Huffman has been very proactive in systematically upgrading the drilling regulations to deal with the changing technology that has brought us the Marcellus shale development opportunity.” The new rule “will pave the way for continued investment and jobs in West Virginia,” IOGA President Jim Haskins said.

A number of environmental groups said they are unsatisfied with the rule because it lacks crucial protections, and are calling on the Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Marcellus shale to resume its work on a regulatory bill in preparation for a special session.

“The select committee ... has failed to reach any agreement on the issues, and therefore no special session has been called,” said Jim Sconyers, of the West Virginia Sierra Club. “Yet permits continue to be issued. Our air, land and water need immediate protection.”

Ten groups held rallies in Morgantown and Charleston on Monday calling for action — five groups at each rally.

Candace Jordan, of WV4MOM (West Virginia for a Moratorium on Marcellus) said in a statement, “We are no closer to having adequate regulations for Marcellus shale gas drilling than we were last March at the end of the 2011 session. If the Legislature is unable to agree upon and deliver broad regulation, the DEP needs to stop issuing permits.”

Eighteen groups signed a letter urging the select committee to reconvene, noting these holes, among many, in the DEP’s proposed rule:

Nothing to address the cumulative effects of air pollution, noise and truck traffic.

No public comment for permits inside municipal boundaries, and no public notice or comment for wells in rural areas.

No surface owner protections, including a requirement for drillers to negotiate surface use agreements.

No protection for public lands.