The Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York (IOGA) has submitted 119 pages of comments to the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), just before the deadline to comment on the proposed rules governing high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF).

In a letter to the DEC on Jan. 11, IOGA Executive Director Brad Gill said the association — whose members include operators anxious to drill in the Empire State — supported the agency’s efforts and applauded many of the safeguards outlined in the revised draft of its supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on HVHF.

“However, without improvement, the more excessive, unproven and unnecessary limitations run the substantial risk of making the exploration and development of unconventional natural gas in New York noneconomic,” Gill said. “As a result, New York’s regulations and requirements, if finalized without amendment, will be viewed by industry as too challenging and restrictive to allow for cost competitive development in the current and forecast natural gas market.”

Specifically, IOGA said it takes issue with the DEC’s vision for permit processing, setbacks and prohibitions; air and water quality regulations; water withdrawals, and minimum natural flow requirements. The association also disagrees with proposals to eliminate the maximum bond requirements for wells, and for making it mandatory that operators submit a transportation plan for each drilling permit, apply for stormwater permits, and certify that for each drilling permit the most environmentally friendly — or “green” — fracking fluids are being used for HVHF.

IOGA also accused the DEC of obsessing over worst-case scenarios.

On the issue of permitting, IOGA said the DEC was vague over how much time it would take to process a drilling permit application. The issue is compounded by the suggestion that many of the reviews be sequential, it noted.

The DEC has proposed prohibiting well pads in the watersheds of New York City and Syracuse, an adjacent 4,000-foot buffer zone, as well as within a 500-foot buffer of a primary aquifer and on some state lands (see NGI, Dec. 10, 2012). Setbacks would have to be 2,000 feet from a primary aquifer; 2,000 feet from public water supply wells and reservoirs; 500 feet from private drinking water wells and domestic springs; 1,000 feet from New York City’s subsurface water supply infrastructure; 500 feet from a principal aquifer; and 150-500 feet from a tributary, depending on if it is tied to a public drinking water supply.

“When these prohibitions and setbacks are mapped against leasehold interests, it often becomes impossible to lay out units or site well pads in a manner that makes development in New York State economically viable,” IOGA said. The “acreage available to develop the shale resources in New York is far less than the 80% being predicted by the DEC and may approach numbers as low as 40-50%, if not lower.”

Nationwide, extraction activities are exempt from National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and the federal Clean Water Act (see NGI, Oct. 15, 2012). However, IOGA contends that the DEC is disregarding the exemptions by requiring operators to obtain stormwater permits, which “unnecessarily creates requirements unique to the natural gas industry that are far too numerous, unnecessarily prescriptive and lacking the requisite flexibility.”

The association also said it was “unreasonable” for the DEC to consider eliminating bonding limits, and derided proposals to require a transportation plan for drilling permits and a review and certification of every single permit application to ensure the operator is using additives in HVHF that are the least toxic to the environment.

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