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SRBC Announces Proposed Rulemaking, Schedules Public Hearings

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) has unveiled a proposed rulemaking to amend its current regulations, including its consumptive water use mitigation policy, and scheduled four public hearings to discuss the changes.

In a statement last Thursday, the SRBC said the amendments include application requirements and standards for the review of regulatory projects; modifying the rules dealing with the mitigation of consumptive water use; providing for the registration of grandfathered projects, and revising requirements for hearings and enforcement actions.

"With the proposed rulemaking, the commission is striving to gain efficiencies in our procedures and enhance the tools and data we use to pursue our water resources management objectives," said SRBC Executive Director Andrew Dehoff.

Specifically, the SRBC said changes to the application requirements and standards for review of regulatory projects would include new requirements for projects such as mine and construction dewatering, water resource remediation and abandoned mine drainage remediation facilities.

Pennsylvania is one state where oil and natural gas producers can use treated coal mine water to drill and stimulate wells, thereby reducing the use of fresh water for drilling and completion operations. Last October, Gov. Tom Wolf signed HB 875 into law. The legislation, which enjoyed bipartisan support, effectively limits the liabilities posed to producers for using treated water (see Shale DailyOct. 1, 2015).

The SRBC has also proposed lowering the water storage standard for the mitigation of consumptive water use from 90 days to 45 days, and requiring a mitigation plan to encourage water conservation and promote actual mitigation of water, including blended mitigation options. The proposed rules also allow for the potential requirement for mitigation of pre-compact consumptive use if the project is located in a water critical area.

The commission also wants to require projects that are currently exempt from its review to register within a two-year window to preserve their exemption. The SRBC estimates that a total of 760 projects are grandfathered, and collectively account for an estimated water use of 970 million gallons per day. That total is approximately equal to the total existing regulated consumptive use approved by the SRBC.

"The registration program will greatly enable the commission to accurately account for existing water uses in order to properly manage the water resources of the basin," the SRBC said.

The SRBC will hold two informational webinars on the changes on Oct. 11 and Oct. 17. Public hearings are scheduled for Nov. 3 in Harrisburg, PA; Nov. 9 in Binghamton, NY; Nov. 10 in Williamsport, PA, and Dec. 8 in Annapolis, MD. The SRBC will also accept written comments on the consumptive water use mitigation policy through Jan. 6, 2017, and on the proposed rulemaking through Jan. 30, 2017.

SRBC is a compact established by the federal government in 1971 and based in Harrisburg that manages the water resources of the Susquehanna River Basin. The commission regulates some development within the Marcellus Shale in parts of New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. The Susquehanna River starts in Cooperstown, NY, and flows 444 miles to Havre de Grace, MD, where the river meets the Chesapeake Bay. Representatives from Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and the Army Corps of Engineers serve as commissioners.

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