New Proposed Rules for Natural Gas Development in the Delaware River Basin are Released
After months of development, the Delaware River Basin Commission (?DRBC?) has issued new draft rules regarding the development of natural gas projects within the boundaries of the Delaware River basin. More stringent than rules governing oil and gas projects in the Susquehanna River basin, the rules propose certain limitations on well pad locations in critical habitats, include setback provisions from water bodies, wetlands and other natural features, and require the development of Natural Gas Development Plans (?NGDPs?) for larger developers. It is clear that the DRBC hopes to influence and drive the development of natural gas projects through the use of NGDPs to areas it deems best suited for project development while limiting impacts to more sensitive areas of the basin.
The proposed rules establish a new Article 7 to the DRBC?s Water Quality Regulations and will apply to the operation and construction of oil and natural gas projects regardless of the formation being explored or type of well being drilled. There is also no threshold water use volume which will trigger the rules? application to oil and gas projects. All projects will be required to obtain approval from the DRBC. Developers holding in excess of 3,200 acres under lease within the basin or any developer planning to construct more than five well pads must draft and submit NGDPs to the DRBC.
Very important to future development is the DRBC?s new Approval By Rule (?ABR?) process for oil and gas projects. Any project that will use a previously approved water source allocation as its water resource, and whose location is consistent with a previously approved NGDP and with existing setback and location provisions in the rule, would be eligible for project approval through the ABR process. The anticipated time for approval of projects pursuant to the ABR process is thirty days, as opposed to the six-to-nine month minimum time frame for full commission approval of projects.
Thursday?s publication of the draft rules began a 90-day comment period. Three public hearings on the draft regulations are planned; however, dates and locations have not been finalized. Click here to view a copy of the new rules.
Should you have questions about this or any matter involving energy law, please contact the Energy Group at Steptoe & Johnson PLLC.