The Susquehanna River Basin Commission is holding public hearings Aug. 2 in Harrisburg and Aug. 4 in Binghamton, N.Y., with the aim of changing some of their gas-related rules.
The proposed rule changes appear to largely benefit the natural gas industry, which has complained about the slow, deliberative approach of the SRBC, which meets only four times a year to make decisions on water withdrawal permits.
The SRBC and the Delaware River Basin Commission hold charters from the federal government and the states of New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland to protect and manage the water resources of the Susquehanna River Basin. That gives them unique power over gas drillers, who are dependent on permits to withdraw millions of gallons of water for their hydro-fracking operations.
The public hearings are intended to explain and receive commentary on proposed regulatory revisions, most of which regard the approval of natural gas projects, addition of new definitions, renewals of expiring approvals, restructuring of water source approvals and incorporation of certain policies and practices into regulation.
The hearing in Harrisburg will be at 10 a.m. the Rachel Carson State Office Building, at 400 Market St.
The second hearing will occur on Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Binghamton Downtown, 2-8 Hawley St., Binghamton, N.Y.
It looks as if the SRBC is seeking to streamline and speed up their permitting process and cover itself in case further formations beyond the Marcellus are discovered to be mineral-rich in the future. They also appear to be updating some of the obsolete language in their regulations.
Here are summaries of what the rule-changes propose to do:
- Definitions will be added to SRBC regulations for the following terms: flowback, formation fluids, hydrocarbon development, hydrocarbon water storage facility, production fluids, tophole water, and unconventional natural gas development.
- Permits for recycling flowback water from one well to reuse in another, and for water to be taken for treatment and disposal would be expedited using the Approval by Rule program.
- Specific references to specific shale gas formations replaced with a generic category – "unconventional natural gas development."
- The SRBC would begin to authorize the renewal of expiring approvals, saving time and money for companies, which previously had to submit a new application for expiring permits.
- The SRBC would also open up the expedited Approval by Rule program to a broader category of oil and gas projects.
- The terms for Approval by Rule program-approved permits would be extended from five to 15 years each. The SRBC said it is doing so because of its improved understanding of the natural gas industry "Until the Commission could develop a track record with the natural gas ABRs, it limited those approvals to 5 years, which is no longer necessary," the report said.
- The organization is formalizing its requirement for post-hydrofracture reporting.
- The SRBC is reorganizing water source approvals under the Approval by Rule program to allow one bulk permit, rather than individual permits for each source (including public water supplies, wastewater and hydrocarbon water storage facilities). "Such an approach provides the necessary management controls, but does so in an efficient manner," the report said.