As Fracking Deadline Looms, DEC Approves Rules For Water Withdrawals

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The state Department of Environmental Conservation is poised to miss an end-of-week deadline to finalize its proposed hydrofracking regulations. But a separate set of rules completed last week will likely have a significant impact on natural-gas companies.

The DEC acted Wednesday to install a new permitting system for large withdrawals from the state’s bodies of water, with the new rules set to take effect in April.

The regulations, which were required by a state law passed last year, will require a permit for any withdrawals of more than 100,000 gallons per day, including for any commercial or industry use. Previously, property owners were allowed to withdraw from a water source if their property was along the edge and permits were only issued for water being taken for public systems.

“Governor Cuomo signed this legislation to foster responsible conservation practices and economic growth while protecting water bodies and wildlife habitats,” DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens said in a statement today. “The regulations will allow the state to protect the environment while promoting economic growth and addressing droughts.”

The law requiring the permitting system was drafted by the Cuomo Administration to comply with the Great Lakes Compact, and was supported by some critics of hydrofracking. High-volume fracking — the type currently not allowed in New York — requires several million gallons of water for each well. The water is mixed with sand and chemicals to fracture shale formations and release natural gas.

Some aren’t pleased with the newly finalized rules. Rachel Treichler, a Steuben County-based attorney who blogs on New York water-related issues, called them “Cuomo’s gift to the gas industry.”

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