The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released 90 pages of documents detailing proposed regulations governing high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF), and it has set the dates for a 30-day public comment period on the proposed rules. The action appeared to signal a long-awaited break in the state's drilling moratorium.

The DEC said it will accept public comments on the draft regulations beginning Dec. 12 and ending at 5 p.m. on Jan. 11, 2013.

The proposed changes call for revising terminology in three areas of state law, also known as New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR).

The first proposed changes, outlined in a two-page document, involve NYCRR Parts 52 and 190, which address the use of state lands, including those administered by the state Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources.

A second series of proposed changes, outlined in a 59-page document, would amend NYCRR Parts 550 through 556 and 560. Specifically, these changes involve promulgation and enforcement of rules and regulations; reports and financial security; permits to drill, deepen, plug back or convert wells; well spacing; drilling practices and reports; plugging and abandonment; operating practices, and operations associated with HVHF.

The DEC also proposed changes to NYCRR Parts 750.1 and 750.3. In a 29-page document, the agency outlines how an operator would obtain a state pollutant discharge elimination system (SPDES) permit for HVHF activities.

Jim Smith, spokesman for the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York (IOGA), told NGI that the organization was carefully reviewing the DEC's proposals.

"We're poring through it," Smith said. "We're trying to determine how our members will react. Time is going to tell whether these are reasonable regulations. The proof will be if the operators return to New York. They're leaving for Pennsylvania and Ohio. Only time will tell if they consider New York open for business."

The DEC filed for a 90-day extension on Thursday to finalize rules governing HVHF, to give Department of Health Commissioner Nirav Shah more time to complete a health analysis of the practice (see NGI, Sept. 24). A series of delays in the environmental review has kept the moratorium in place since 2008 (see NGI, Dec. 20, 2010).

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