The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has directed staff to draft regulations for natural gas well pad projects in shale formations in the river basin, which would impact Marcellus Shale operations.

Commissioners plan to consider specific gas well pad applications for the Delaware River Basin after the new regulations are in place.

“The drafting process is already under way, so it made logical sense for the development of new regulations to move forward in advance of any individual project decisions,” said DRBC Executive Director Carol R. Collier.

The DRBC was formed by compact in 1961 through legislation signed into law by President Kennedy and the governors of the four basin states with land draining to the Delaware River: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York . The compact’s creation marked the first time in U.S. history that the federal government and a group of states joined together as equal partners in a river basin planning, development and regulatory agency.

Last year the DRBC voted to require that energy companies obtain approval before beginning any gas extraction project in shale formations within the drainage area of the basin’s special protection waters (see Daily GPI, June 1, 2009).

The rulemaking process now to be undertaken by staff is to include public notice and a “full opportunity” for public comment before the commissioners adopt the regulations.

The DRBC’s decision to enact new regulations follows a public hearing for a proposal submitted by Stone Energy Corp. to extract water from the basin’s West Branch Lackaawaaxen River in Mount Pleasant Township in Wayne County, PA. The producer wants the water to drill its Matoushek No. 1 well. The request drew more than 2,000 public comments.

Although the commission may enact new rules, it said its review of “pending or future proposed water withdrawals to be used to supply water to natural gas extraction projects, including Stone Energy’s proposed water withdrawal…is to proceed under existing DRBC regulations.”

The written comments that the DRBC received during the comment period, which closed on April 12, pertained to both Stone Energy’s proposed water withdrawal project and its proposed natural gas well drilling project. The earliest that the commission could vote on the proposed water withdrawal project would be its next public business meeting scheduled for July 14.

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