The State of New York, which already has a rigorous permitting process for oil and gas drilling, has issued a revised environmental impact statement and proposed regulations governing high-volume hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") and horizontal drilling. The revised draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement ("SGEIS") was released September 7 by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ("NYSDEC") in response to former Governor Paterson's Executive Order 41, which directed the State to study new high-volume fracking and horizontal drilling technologies prior to issuing permits authorizing the use of these technologies. The proposed rules, which were issued on September 28, 2011, incorporate the draft SGEIS' recommendations.
The draft SGEIS recommends a number of conditions to ensure that fracking well sites are protective of the environment. Wells would need to be appropriately cemented and cased to prevent the migration of methane gas into groundwater. To avoid the release of fracturing fluids, NYSDEC would review well site layouts to ensure proper designs and determine site-specific permit conditions. Natural gas drillers would be required to obtain a new permit that will include design measures to prevent the release of fracturing fluids to water sources. Flowback water, fracturing fluids, and fracturing additives stored on-site would be required to be placed within secure tanks with secondary containment. Flowback water and drilling wastewater would have to be disposed of in accordance with NYSDEC requirements. To address public concerns over the composition of fracking fluids, permit applicants would be required to disclose to the NYSDEC all chemicals in high-volume fracking, subject to exemptions for trade secrets. Finally, surface drilling would be prohibited within 4,000 feet of the Syracuse and New York City watersheds, within 2,000 feet of public drinking water supplies, within 500 feet of private wells (unless waived by the landowner), and within 500 feet of the state's primary groundwater aquifers.
Public comments are currently being accepted on the draft SGEIS and the proposed regulations until December 12, 2011. Additionally, eight public hearings on the two regulatory actions will be held in November.