New York State Proposes Hydraulic Fracturing Rules

October 5, 2011


On September 28, 2011, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) published for public comment a proposed set of rules governing high-volume hydraulic fracturing (a/k/a "fracking") operations. The fracking process involves the injection of fluids into deep wells under high pressure to fracture rock formations and extract hydrocarbons. In New York State, the primary hydrocarbon resource is natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation. The DEC has taken extensive public comment and has held numerous hearings in the process of developing the rules, and has set a deadline of December 12, 2011 for comments on the current proposal. Protecting New York City's upstate water supply has been one of the key concerns throughout the process, and the rules would prohibit any fracking within 4,000 feet of the watershed and other unfiltered watersheds. Once the proposed rules are finalized, the State intends to end the current moratorium on fracking and begin issuing permits.

The proposed rules would require:

  • Disclosure of the additive products used in the fracking process (subject to an exception for confidential business information)
  • Evaluation of alternative additives that pose less risk to water supplies
  • Enhance well casing
  • Treatment, recycling or disposal of all flow-back water and production brine
  • Comprehensive stormwater pollution prevention plans
  • Plans for the use and testing of blowout preventers
  • Compliance with detailed requirements for site preparation, and well construction, operation and maintenance
  • Site-specific environmental assessments for certain types of fracking applications with higher potential for environmental impacts (e.g., where the fracture zone is less than 1,000 feet below the base of a known fresh water supply)
  • In addition to the 4,000 buffer zone for unfiltered watersheds, the rule would prohibit fracking within 500 feet of primary aquifers and 2,000 of public water supplies

The DEC has estimated that it will receive an average of 1,600 applications per year to drill in Marcellus Shale once permitting begins, possibly for 30 years. For more information about the proposed fracking rules, contact John Rousakis at jrousakis@omm.com