The New York State Environmental Conservation Commission has announced new regulations for natural gas drilling in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds. These new rules will, in effect, preclude drilling in those particular areas amid concerns about possible contamination to drinking water. The new regulations indicate that these watersheds will be removed from drilling regulations being developed for other parts of the Marcellus Shale region in southern New York. Additionally, each gas well will require an individual environmental impact statement. Applications to drill for shale gas in the two cities’ watersheds will be taken on a case-by-case basis instead of falling under the general rules that will apply to the rest of the state.
The new regulations were enacted as a result of the drilling boom in the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation that only recently became profitable to tap. Recent technological advances in gas drilling methods have led to a veritable “rush” seeking to tap the natural gas within the Marcellus Shale regions. The gas is extracted by using high volume hydraulic fracturing to release the trapped natural gas. This method involves injecting millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals and sand into each well.
Under the new regulations, companies applying for drilling permits would have to meet requirements spelled out in a “generic” environmental impact statement but would not have to draft impact statements for each well. The generic impact statement includes numerous special restrictions for sensitive watershed areas.
The Marcellus Shale formation covers parts of New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.