As development of the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania ramps up, New
York's Department of Environmental Conservation continues work on a
final supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS),
which is not expected to be completed until next year.
Speaking at the 2010 Marcellus Summit at Penn State, Brad Field,
director of mineral resources for the New York Department of
Environmental Conservation (DEC), cleared up some widely held
misconceptions of the state's development of the Marcellus and outlined
a time line for SGEIS completion.
"There has been a lot in the media and the Internet about the status of
hydraulic fracturing in New York," Field told the audience. "First off,
the link between horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing and
Marcellus development is an obvious one...but everyone needs to keep in
mind that horizontal drilling is not a new technology in the oil and
gas business. It is not a new technology from a regulatory perspective.
"Around 10% of our well drilling permits in New York are for horizontal
or directional wells, so that technology in and of itself is not
exceptionally new. Hydraulic fracturing has taken place in New York
since the 1940s or 1950s...We are still open for business. We issued
over 500 permits in 2009. Low-volume fracking does take place in the
Marcellus, in the Utica through vertical wells at this time, but
nothing of the high-volume variety is going forward."
In July 2008 New York Gov. David A. Paterson directed the DEC
to prepare an SGEIS, effectively placing a moratorium on much of the
Marcellus development in the state (see Daily GPI, July
24, 2008). The SGEIS was requested because the original Generic
Environmental Impact Statement was completed by the state in 1992,
before this type of shale development was on the table.
Field said what is different with the current Marcellus development is
high-volume hydraulic fracturing, with much larger volumes of water.
"The other issue we're looking at is the longer duration of impact at a
particular wellpad due to multi-well drilling and the depth and
duration of the drilling activity," he said.
"Groundwater contamination is a very big issue for us as
regulators," Field said, noting that gas migration is the number one
concern. After conducting a recent study Field said DEC found
that "if you're greater than 2,000 feet below the surface and there is
at least 1,000 feet between the target zone and the underground source
of drinking water, that the likelihood of any impact from hydraulic
fracturing at high volumes is nil."
Whether to develop New York's Marcellus acreage has been a
hot topic. Following a series of public hearings and meetings across
New York, over 13,000 comments were generated, which the DEC is
going through now. Last month protests and street closings pre-
ceded the first day of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
hearing in Binghamton, NY, to determine the scope of a two-year
study it will be conducting on the impact of hydraulic fracturing pro-
cesses on drinking water. The New York EPA hearings were the last
scheduled in a series that included meetings in Dallas, Denver and
Canonsburg, PA (see Daily
Field said the department is currently working on the final SGEIS,
which he doesn't expect will be completed until early next year.
"That's the last step. We issue the final, then no sooner than 10 days
after that the finding statement, which has the road map for how we
implement the findings."