This post is response to one of our readers who commented on an earlier post about New Yorkers not buying gas industry PR. The reader also referenced an editorial penned by the head of the NY Department of Environmental Conservation that appeared in some NY papers back in August.
While this exploration could increase supplies of natural gas, expand the tax base and boost the upstate economy, it can also have significant environmental impacts. In public forums already held across the state, Governor David A. Paterson's administration has heard the community concerns, particularly about environmental protection. The DEC shares those concerns, and is fully committed to ensuring that this drilling will only proceed in an environmentally responsible way...
What is new, however, is the scale of the proposed horizontal drilling in the Marcellus Shale, and this raises significant issues which will be addressed comprehensively and publicly as we supplement the generic environmental impact statement. Before any permits are issued for horizontal wells in the Marcellus formation we will know what is going into and coming out of the ground. We will know how the large quantities of water needed for these operations will be managed and stored in order to protect our critical water resources. And we will know how any wastewater will be properly treated and disposed of.
Here in Arkansas, drilling permits are issued by the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission. The AOGC also monitors drilling operations once those permits are issued. I asked AOGC commissioner Lawrence Bengal what the agency was doing to reach out to the public. It is important to remember that a substantial portion of AOGC's funding comes from issuing drilling permits. So while Bengal says the organization has participated in 30 outreach meetings over the last 24 months, it's not clear what they would stand to gain from really going into the negative impacts of the drilling. Read Bengal's comments after the jump.
With respect to your question regarding public comment prior to AOGC issuing an oil and gas drilling permit, there is not a public comment provision. The statutory role of Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission is to implement regulatory frameworks to ensure that the recovery of oil and gas resources is conducted in such a fashion as to be protective of the oil and gas resource, the associated reservoir, and the environment, without interfering with contractual or private property rights. Given the private property right of resource recovery, the oil and gas statutes only refer to an operator providing to the regulatory entity a notice of intent to drill, with the requirements for receiving a permit being; (1) the right to drill and produce the resource, (2) posting of a bond to ensure plugging of the well, (3) operator registration to do business in the State of Arkansas, and (4) compliance with well spacing requirements.
With respect to public outreach, the AOGC has participated in over 30 public outreach meetings during the last 24 months throughout the Fayetteville Shale area. Our most recent outreach effort was a presentation on the environmental impact of the Fayetteville Shale presented at the Conway Fayetteville Shale Expo. Copies of all Fayetteville Shale permits are sent to the County Judges in those counties where development is occurring. A list of all issued permits are posted weekly on our web page and published in the Democrat Gazette each Sunday. In addition, the GIS map on our web page shows the status of each issued permit as to: (1) permit issued; (2) well in the process of drilling; and (3) well has been drilled and gas production commenced. The GIS map is updated daily.