Tuesday, November 16, 2021

DRBC Extends Comment Period On Draft Regulations Covering Discharges Of Wastewater From Fracking Operations & Ban On Road Dumping Of Wastewater & Co-Products

On November 16, the
Delaware River Basin Commission announced it has extended the public comment period on draft changes to its Water Code regulating wastewater from high volume hydraulic fracking oil and gas drilling operations to February 28.

The proposed regulations prohibit the discharge of wastewater from high volume fracking operations in the watershed and set criteria for the import and export of wastewater, although in both cases the practice is discouraged.

High Volume Fracturing

High volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) is hydraulic fracturing using a combined total of 300,000 or more gallons of water during all stages in a well completion, whether the well is vertical or directional, including horizontal, and whether the water is fresh or recycled and regardless of the chemicals or other additives mixed with the water.

Wastewater Definition

The definition of high volume hydraulic fracking wastewater includes--

(1) Any wastewater, brine, sludge, chemicals, naturally occurring radioactive materials, heavy metals or other contaminants that have been used for or generated by high volume hydraulic fracturing or HVHF-related activities;

(2) Leachate from solid wastes associated with HVHF-related activities, except if the solid wastes were lawfully disposed of in a landfill within the Basin prior to the effective date of this rule; and

(3) Any products, co-products, byproducts or waste products resulting from the treatment, processing or modification of the wastewater described in paragraphs (1) and (2) of this same definition.

Discharge Ban

The draft regulations say, “No person may discharge wastewater from high volume hydraulic fracturing or HVHF- related activities to waters or land within the Basin.”

This language would include banning the road dumping of high volume fracking wastewater or products or co-products made from that wastewater.

DRBC recognized the problem with Pennsylvania’s regulations that allow the road dumping of drilling wastewater on dirt and gravel roads under DEP’s Co-Product Determination process.  Although it applies to so-called conventional drilling, many of the conventional oil and gas wells drilled in Pennsylvania are fracked.  Read more here.

Water Importation

The proposed regulations clarify the factors the Commission will use in evaluating proposed importations of water or wastewater that meet the Commission’s existing thresholds for review. 

Although importations of wastewater are “discouraged,” they may be permitted after careful consideration to ensure that available alternatives have been evaluated, treatment is employed to ensure applicable water quality criteria are achieved, restoration efforts are not impeded, and uses incorporated in the Commission’s Comprehensive Plan are protected. 

Water Exportation

The Commission’s policy has been to discourage the exportation of water from the Basin. The draft amendments establish the circumstances under which proposed exportations that meet the Commission’s existing threshold for review may be considered for approval. 

Under the proposed rule, the Commission may approve an exportation of water if the export is needed to serve a straddled or adjacent public water system; if it is required on a temporary, short-term, or emergency basis to meet public health and safety needs; or if it comprises an exportation of wastewater. 

The Commission will require an analysis of alternatives to the proposed exportation and will consider in its review, factors that include the effects of the proposal on public health and safety and the effectuation of its Comprehensive Plan.

Click Here for a copy of the draft and supporting information.

Virtual Hearings/Public Comments

The Commission is expressly seeking comment on the effects the proposed rules may have within the Basin on:

-- Water availability;

-- The control and abatement of water pollution;

-- Economic development;

-- The conservation and protection of drinking water supplies;

-- The conservation and protection of aquatic life;

-- The conservation and protection of water quality in Special Protection Waters; and

-- The protection, maintenance and improvement of water quantity and quality Basinwide

DRBC has scheduled four virtual public hearing sessions on the regulations-- 

-- December 8, from 2:30 p.m. to no later than 4:30 p.m. Individuals who wish to comment on the record are asked to sign up in advance through Eventbrite by 5:00 p.m., Dec. 7;

-- December 8, from 6:30 p.m. to no later than 8:30 p.m. Individuals who wished to comment on the record are asked to sign up in advance through Eventbrite by 5:00 p.m., Dec. 7;

-- December 15, from 1:00 p.m. to no later than 3:00 p.m. Individuals who wish to comment on the record are asked to sign up in advance through Eventbrite by 5:00 p.m., Dec. 14; abd

-- December 15, from 4:00 p.m. to no later than 6:00 p.m. Individuals who wish to comment on the record are asked to sign up in advance through Eventbrite by 5:00 p.m., Dec. 14.

Click Here for instructions on joining the hearings via Zoom online.

Written comments are due by February 28.  To ensure all written comments and attachments are received and acknowledged, they must be submitted through the Commission’s online comments webpage

Written comments submitted by other methods will not be accepted unless an express exception has been granted based on lack of access to the web-based system. Requests for exceptions may be addressed to: Commission Secretary, DRBC, P.O. Box 7360, West Trenton, NJ 08628.

Visit DRBC’s Natural Gas Drilling webpage for more information on its regulations covering this activity.

For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the Delaware River Basin Commission website.  Click Here to sign up for regulator updates.  Follow DRBC on TwitterVisit them on YouTube.

Related Articles This Week:

-- A First-Hand Account Of How Repeated, Unlimited Road Dumping Of Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater Is Tearing Apart Dirt Roads And Creating Multiple Environmental Hazards - By Siri Lawson, Farmington Township, Warren County

-- Preliminary Results From New Penn State Study Find Increased Cancer, Health Risks From Road Dumping Conventional Drilling Wastewater, Especially For Children  [PaEN]

-- New Pitt-Duquesne Study Shows Higher Exposures To Radiation In Road Dumping Of Drilling Wastewater When Appropriate Exposure Scenarios Are Used 

-- Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, FracTracker Alliance Call On Citizens To Report Road Dumping Of Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater 

-- Trout Unlimited: What Do Pennsylvania's Dirt And Gravel Roads Have To Do With Trout?  

-- EQB Accepts Petitions For Study To Increase Oil & Gas Well Bonding; DEP Has $15 Per Well Available In Bonds To Plug Conventional Wells

-- Marcellus Shale Coalition Challenges EQB Authority To Increase Bond Amounts For Conventional Oil & Gas Wells; DEP Has $15 Per Well Available In Bonds To Plug Conventional Wells 

-- PUC Imposes $1 Million Penalty On Energy Transfer Company For 2018 Revolution Pipeline Explosion In Beaver County

-- PUC Orders More Than A Dozen Actions To Improve Safety In Construction, Operation Of Mariner East Pipelines; Sunoco Must Pay $2,000 Penalty

[Posted: November 16, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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