The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) will hold another public hearing over plans by XTO Energy Inc., an ExxonMobil Corp. subsidiary, to withdraw up to 250,000 gal/d of surface water from a creek in New York for natural gas wells.

Last Wednesday DRBC commissioners unanimously elected to hold another public hearing over XTO's proposed water withdrawals after 39 people testified at a public hearing in West Trenton, NJ. Many of those speakers had requested the additional public hearing and had asked for the comment period to be extended.

DRBC spokesman Clarke Rupert told NGI's Shale Daily on Tuesday that details over the next public hearing were in the final planning stages, but it would more than likely take place in or near Broome County, NY, by June 10.

"We expect that we'll be able to [make an announcement] shortly, within the next day or two," Rupert said.

XTO wants to withdraw water from Oquaga Creek for natural gas exploration and production activities in Broome County and neighboring Delaware County, NY, The company plans to withdraw the water from a site in Sanford, NY, which is located in Broome County. Oquaga Creek is a tributary of the West Branch Delaware River.

Asked if the water withdrawal permit was for a horizontal or vertical well, XTO spokesman Jeff Neu told NGI's Shale Daily on Tuesday that the permit "is for future planning involving natural gas development. The permit is not tied to a specific well type." He declined to speculate on how long the company planned to withdraw water from the creek.

Jim Smith, a spokesman for the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, declined to comment on the matter but did tell NGI's Shale Daily on Tuesday that he believed the hearings were "just normal procedure."

Rupert said the DRBC has so far received more than 7,900 comments for a "draft docket" -- a type of permit to be vetted by the public -- on the XTO issue. He added that even if a draft docket is eventually issued, XTO must still receive separate approval from the DRBC and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for the wells.

"And the [DRBC] commissioners had indicated a year ago that they would not consider specific natural gas well pad applications until after new regulations are adopted," Rupert said. "That process is currently under way."

In a separate statement, the DRBC said that while the agency considers its own set of shale gas regulations, water withdrawal applications such as XTO's can proceed.

Last month New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he would sue federal regulators if they did not agree to conduct a review of the DRBC's environmental laws within 30 days (see Shale Daily, April 21).

Also in April the DRBC concluded a series of public hearings on proposed changes to water quality rules (see Shale Daily, April 18). The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection then said it wanted the DRBC to have oversight over approving natural gas wells in the river basin, and called for a limit of 300 producing wells (see Shale Daily, April 20).