ARCHIVED: Natural Gas Development Team last met May 25, 2011

     Although the Marcellus Shale has not been extensively developed in New York State, the geology and leasing activity in Broome County indicate a future of local natural gas development. County officials have spent the last several years both learning about natural gas issues and working to apply those lessons locally.

     The County has used many educational resources. We have consulted with independent experts, officials in other communities experienced in natural gas development, NYS officials at DEC and PSC, industry representatives, local experts, private land owners, Broome County employed scientists and others. This is a dynamic industry, and it is necessary to continue consulting all these resources.  
     In addition, many websites have been developed to educate the public and government officials. Some Marcellus Shale web sites advance a particular pro-drilling or anti-drilling position. While it is impossible to personally sift through all these sites, there are some that provide excellent education with minimal advocacy. These include New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Penn State Cooperative Extension, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission
     There have also been many white papers, public seminars and open meetings about natural gas development issues, some of which were co-sponsored by the county administration. Speakers have included scientists, public officials, engineers, economic planners, industry representatives, and experts from the many disciplines that are touched by this industry.          
     The Broome County “Natural Gas Development Team ” was not formed to compete with or replace these educational opportunities.  This team was formed by former County Executive Barbara Fiala to apply the lessons learned by others and to create a better information flow internally and with the public. The team is addressing various issues, including economic development, protection of our infrastructure, water quality, intermunicipal cooperation, emergency response, development of county land, etc.  As wells are drilled in Broome County, the composition and direction of the team will evolve and respond.   In the meantime, we hope to help Broome County Government manage effectively the initial stages of natural gas development.

The Natural Gas Development Team will be meeting on a regular basis.  Meeting reports will be posted as soon as they are available.

Team Members:

  • Robert G. Behnke - Broome County Attorney
  • Brett Chellis - Broome County Director of Emergency Services 
  • Carl Beardsley - Broome County Commissioner of Aviation
  • Doug English - Broome County Planning Department - GIS Administrator
  • Peter Haff - Broome County Environmental Health Services - Ground Water Management Specialist
  • Charles McElwee - Broome Solid Waste Conservation District - Executive Director
  • Joseph A. Merrill - Broome County Legislator
  • Ron Heebner - Broome County Legislator
  • Patrick Doyle - Broome County Industrial Development Agency - Director, Business      Development

Meeting Reports: 

March 4, 2010 - Proposed County Local Law on Roads:
New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law has a permit process to regulate over-weight and over-dimension vehicles on State Highways. The weight and dimension thresholds are set by New York State.  The permits, issued by NYS Department of Transportation, apply only to the State Highway System.  NYS law provides that counties and localities can develop a permit process for their own roads.
Broome County and localities have been working together to develop a uniform approach to over-weight and over-dimension vehicles.  On March 2, 2010, the County Administration submitted a Proposed County Local Law for the County Legislature to consider.  On March 4, 2010, County officials presented the proposed local law to a meeting of the Broome County Association of Towns and Villages. The proposal is not targeted to any particular industry. Instead any non exempt, over-weight or over-dimension vehicle would require a permit to drive on County roads.
The local law is being reviewed by County Legislators in Committee. It is also being reviewed by Town and Village officials. Any resident who has comments or questions about the proposed local law should contact their Legislator, or they can send an email to
April 15, 2010 Update: The Administration has received many comments about the proposed Local Law.  As a result, amendments will be drafted to address the following:
  • Insurance requirements similar to NYS Department of Transportation

  • Acknowledgement that Local Law will not interfere with provisions of NYS Agricultural and Markets Law

  • Elimination of default requirement that every permit holder be required to post an undertaking

The Administration is also working with local municipalities in an attempt to lessen administrative burdens for both the trucking industry and municipal governments.
May 13, 2010 Update:  The Administration has prepared amendments to the proposed Local Law: Local Law Amended. The amendments were filed with the Legislature on May 13, 2010. 
June 7, 2010 Update:  The Local Law Amended was approved by the appropriate Legislative committee.  It is currently on the agenda for the June 17, 2010 meeting of the Legislature.  Barbara Fiala has sent a letter dated June 4, 2010 to Broome County localities describing the Local Law. Fiala letter to Municipalities 06.04.10.
June 17, 2010 Update:  The Broome County Legislature passed the amended version of the Local Law at its regular meeting on June 17, 2010.
June 9, 2011 Update:  Broome County Department of Public Works has implemented regulations under the Local Law.
March 12, 2010 Meeting Report:  
The team met to discuss community water quality issues.   
The  Broome County Department of Health provides regulatory oversight of public water supplies in Broome County.  As part of those duties the Department’s Division of Environmental Health Services has program responsibilities that should complement the statutory and regulatory requirements of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) for gas well drilling in New York State.
The Department has prepared a power point which describes the public water supplies in Broome County and the state regulatory control of gas well drilling:
It has also prepared a narrative which describes some of the specific departmental actions in reference  to gas drilling:
April 1, 2010 Meeting Report:
The team discussed expected emergency response issues connected to natural gas development. Brett Chellis identified, among others, the following public safety considerations:
·          Hazmat Incidents
·          High Angle Rescue
·          Confined Space Rescue
·          Fires/Explosions
·          Access/Location Issues
 Brett Chellis has indicated that various steps will be taken to address these considerations including incident action plans, identification of landing zones, GIS Coordination, site visits, coordination with natural gas companies, training, coordination with local public safety agencies, etc. A more complete presentation of public safety considerations will be discussed at the next meeting.
May 6, 2010 Meeting Report:  The Team continued its discussion on emergency response issues. Brett Chellis presented the following PowerPoint. Marcellus Shale Public Safety. Broome County Emergency Services will continue to work with County departments, other public safety agencies and the natural gas industry on all emergency response matters.
July 15, 2010 Update: The Broome County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) has representatives from local industry, hospitals, Binghamton University, New York State Police, Red Cross, various Broome County agencies and localities.  On July 15, 2010, Brett Chellis from the team discussed natural gas development public safety issues at a meeting of the LEPC. 
September 9, 2010 Update: Brett Chellis discussed natural gas development public safety issues on September 9, 2010 at a meeting of the Broome County Environmental Management Council (EMC). 
May 27, 2010 Meeting Report:
Members of the Team toured Marcellus Shale natural gas production sites in Bradford County, Pennsylvania on May 27, 2010.
         Rural Producing Well                     Tour for Broome County                     Tour for Broome County
         Bradford County, PA                Natural Gas Development Team        Natural Gas Development Team
                                                                Bradford County, PA                             Bradford County, PA
     Tour for Broome County
 Natural Gas Development Team
       Bradford County, PA

Click on an image above to view a larger version of that image
*Photos courtesy of Broome County Director of Emergency Services Brett Chellis

July 13, 2010 Meeting Report:

The team discussed the concept of an “Environmental Monitor.” Natural gas development will involve various industrial activities.  Perhaps the one that has garnered the most public attention is drilling and its components such as hydraulic fracturing, frac flow back disposal, plugging the well bore and related activities.   All these actions are regulated by NYS DEC.   Some local government officials are confident that DEC regulations will be the most stringent and environmentally friendly in the country, but they have concerns about enforcement. One way to enhance enforcement is to utilize “environmental monitors” at natural gas well sites.

Before any natural gas drilling activities can commence, the operator must obtain a permit from NYS DEC. The environmental monitor can be introduced as a permit condition. The operator consents and pays DEC to hire the monitor; DEC directs the monitor; the monitor reports on a regular basis to DEC about well activities of the operator.   DEC has employed this type of environmental monitor in other permit situations.  See DEC Monitor protocols.
There are some current political constraints restricting the use of voluntary DEC permit condition monitors.  An alternative would be to hire an environmental monitor pursuant to the contractual arrangement between the owner of real property and the lessee (natural gas drill permit operator). The lease can specify that the natural gas operator will pay for an environmental monitor that will be hired and directed by the owner of the property.  Obviously this type of monitor would work best with a major land owner. The monitor would not be employed by DEC. Nevertheless the monitor pursuant to lease provisions could monitor both regulatory and lease covenant compliance.  Any violations could be reported directly to the land owner and DEC.  
July 29, 2010 update of July 13 Meeting Report: 
There are other possible applications for environmental monitors. The NYS Soil and Water Conservation Committee has acknowledged that state regulatory staff will receive many erosion and sediment control plans in connection with natural gas development. Soil and Water Conservation Districts may be able to provide services as “third party monitors/inspectors." See Report adopted by The NYS Soil and Water Conservation Committee on May 18, 2010.
July 29, 2010 Meeting Report:
The Team met following the recent public hearing conducted by the Broome County Legislature. The purpose of the hearing was to listen to comments about a natural gas lease offer received by the County. Legislators received numerous questions from constituents following the hearing.   The Team developed a set of questions and answers that respond to many of these inquiries. While the questions and answers do not purport to be the definitive set of FAQ on natural gas issues, they do address some of the issues unique to Broome County.
The Team also discussed land reclamation issues following construction of natural gas development sites. The NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets have developed guidelines for construction and restoration at natural gas well drilling sites and recommendations for pipeline right of way construction projects.

November 18 Update of July 29 Meeting Report:                                        

DEC generally promulgates the following two clauses in well permits granted in an Agricultural District: 

  1. All of the topsoil in the project area stripped to facilitate the construction of well pads and access roads shall be stockpiled and remain on site for use in final reclamation.  
  2. Well pads and access roads constructed for drilling and production operations shall be scarified or ripped to alleviate compaction prior to replacement of topsoil.  Reclaimed areas shall be seeded and mulched after topsoil replacement.  Landowners who wish to keep the access road and/or well pad must make a written request to the Regional Mineral Resources Manager to waive these reclamation requirements.
September 8, 2010 Meeting Report:  
The Team, County Executive Barbara Fiala, Deputy County Executive Darcy Fauci, Broome County DPW and several members of the Broome County Legislature met in Endicott NY. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss waste management practices for frac flowback. Whenever, a natural gas well, vertical or horizontal, is hydraulically fractured, much of the water pumped into the well bore will return to the surface. This water is called frac flowback. It is classified as non-hazardous industrial waste which can only be hauled under a New York State Part 364 Waste Transporter Permit issued by the New York State DEC. Flowback may not be discharged onto the ground or into surface water bodies. Instead discharges will be disposed of at treatment facility plants or in disposal injection wells—both regulated by NYS DEC. 
The Barnett Shale is similar in many geological characteristics to the Marcellus Shale. Much of the frac flowback from the Barnett is disposed of through injection wells. Anecdotal evidence indicates that an adequate geological formation for disposal wells for Marcellus Shale flowback has not been identified.  Consequently discharges will have to be managed in treatment facilities.
Most New York State waste water treatment plants are not engineered to treat flowback. New York State DEC in the SGEIS has stated that “salts and dissolved solids may not be sufficiently treated by municipal biological treatment and/or other treatment technologies which are not designed to remove pollutants of this nature.” 
Various local businesses, Broome County Solid Waste,  the DEC and the Department of Energy have been discussing a pilot project to process frac flowback. The partners in the project have been gathering comprehensive data. The anticipated waste management process would involve three steps – 1) pretreatment to remove normally occurring radioactive material (NORM) and heavy metals, 2) evaporation and 3) crystallization. If successful the pilot project would serve as an example to mitigate potential adverse environmental impacts from natural gas development waste stream management. 
The Broome County Administration will continue to participate in this project. 
November 10, 2010 Meeting Report:
The team met with Steve Palmatier, consultant to Chenango County on natural gas development and Steve Keyes, Vice President of Norse Energy--Regulatory Compliance and Public Outreach. While not necessarily targeting the Marcellus Shale exclusively, natural gas development has proceeded further in Chenango County than Broome County. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the pipeline infrastructure experience in Chenango County.

Steve Keyes discussed Norse Energy’s experience with the New York State Public Service Commission (NYS PSC). PSC regulates pipelines by certain thresholds including diameter, pressure and length. Whenever the statutory thresholds are met, the operator must follow the regulatory requirements including environmental review under Article 7 of the NYS Public Service Law. This assessment is legally equivalent to a review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). 

Natural gas companies occasionally engineer pipelines, especially gathering lines, below the PSC regulatory thresholds. Consequently it may not be necessary to file an Article 7 permit application.  Nevertheless, even in that situation, there can be no gathering line construction before written notice is given to the PSC Safety Division. Pursuant to 16 NYCRR 255.9 at least 48 hours prior to the start of construction for any gathering line intended to operate at a pressure of less than 125 psig, a letter notice of intent giving the name of the operator, address and location of construction must be filed with PSC.  The regulations also contain some minimal construction standards.

Pipeline operators and excavators must also participate in a “one call notification system”—DigSafelyNY.  Before any pipeline construction, excavators must notify a one call notification system at least two but not more than ten working days before the commencement of any pipeline construction. The system will cross check its data base for any pipelines in the proposed work zone, and will notify the operator. See 16 NYCRR 753.

Steve Keyes also indicated that Norse Energy follows some industry best practices not necessarily required by state or federal regulation. These include placing caution tape and 12 gauge tracer wire on top of all laid pipelines.

April 14, 2011 Meeting Report:  

The draft DGEIS prepared by NYSDEC discussed some alternatives to conventional fracturing technologies. Section 9.3 of the draft DSGEIS provides as follows:

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) – The use of LPG, consisting primarily of propane, has the advantages of carbon dioxide and nitrogen cited above; additionally, LPG is known to be a good carrier of proppant due to the higher viscosity of propane gel [55]. Further, mixing LPG with natural gas does not ‘contaminate’ natural gas; and the mixture may be separated at the gas plant and recycled [55]. LPG’s high volatility, low weight, and high recovery potential make it a good fracturing agent. This technology is in limited use in Canada, and has not yet been used in the US.
For information purposes only, on April 14, 2011, the Team hosted a presentation by Gasfrac Energy Services, Inc.  The company owns a proprietary LPG fracturing technology which has been used widely in Canada. Representatives indicated that the technology is now being tested in the Marcellus.
Broome County neither endorses nor supports any natural gas development company.
May 25, 2011 Meeting Report:
The team met with Frank Evangelisti, Broome County Commissioner of Planning and Director of Economic Development. During the past year the team had worked primarily on County efforts to minimize the negative impacts of natural gas development. Mr. Evangelisti indicated that from a planning perspective he would like the team to focus on maximizing some of the potential economic impacts from development. 
The team is going to begin compiling information necessary to create a “one stop shop” for natural gas development companies. The information will be available from the County in hard copy and electronic form. It will include the following:
  1. Legal ordinances by the County and local municipalities regarding roads, aquifer protection, critical environmental areas, noise mitigation etc.
  2. List of vendors for all services utilized by the industry including accommodations, banking, building materials, brokers, manufacturing, waste disposal, economic development, equipment rentals, excavation, hardware, hospitals, professional services, etc.
  3. Education opportunities including course/programs offered by Broome Community College and BOCES.
Brett Chellis reported on various safety and emergency initiatives undertaken by the industry. He recently attended a pipeline safety seminar sponsored by various natural gas development companies. He also attended a meeting of New York State County Emergency Coordinators held in Norwich, New York.
Members of the Team will attend the Summer Conference of IOGA NY July 13, 14, 2011.

July 11 Update of May 25 Meeting Report:

Resource Compendium for Industry