DEP’s Gas-Well Rules Face Secretary of State, Public Comment

Will replace guidelines passed in August 2011

Morgantown Dominion Post
22 June 2012
By Alex Lang

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has drafted a new set of rules governing horizontal gas well development and will submit them to the secretary of state for approval.

Once approved, the new rules will replace the emergency rules that were adopted at the end of August 2011.

DEP Spokesman Tom Aluise said the new legislative rules are similar to the emergency rules, which were set to expire 15 months after they were enacted.

The plan is to file the rules with the secretary of state next week, Aluise said. After that there will be a 30-day public comment period, tentatively set to end on July 31. The full Legislature must then OK the rules during the 2013 session.

The rules are outlined in a 43-page document and feature new or additional details for the production process, reflecting the Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act passed in December 2011.

Among the rules, producers will pay a $10,000 permit fee for an initial horizontal well and $5,000 for each additional well drill at the same well pad. There is also a $150 special reclamation fee and a $100 general permit registration.

“Before beginning to drill a horizontal well, the well owner or operator shall make proper and adequate provision to prevent pollution of the surface and groundwater,” according to the regulations.

Companies must monitor water supplies used by humans or domestic animals within 1,500 feet — slightly more than a quarter of a mile — from the center of a well pad.

If a company is building a pit to hold more than 5,000 barrels of liquid, there are also various requirements, including approval from the agency. There has to be signage displaying the owner and the phone-number for a 24-hour emergency contact. The pits must be inspected every two weeks and within 24 hours of significant rainfall.

Drillers must supply a list of frack fluid additives, including Chemical Abstract Service registry numbers, they expect to use during fracking; and upon well completion, a list of chemicals actually used.

Companies must also submit a water management plan — a requirement that was also part of the emergency rules. The plan must include an estimate of how much water will be used in the process and the source of water withdrawals.

During production, companies must provide the agency the amount of flowback water and how it is being disposed of. The drillers must also identify the collection, delivery and disposal locations of water, and the hauling companies.

Drillers also have to notify state inspectors before any construction of roads and other well infrastructure.