The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) recently released for public comment its Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program (“Supplemental EIS”). The purpose of the Supplemental EIS is to update NYSDEC’s 1992 environmental impact statement for its oil and gas regulatory programs to encompass new “unconventional” natural gas well applications, which involve horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing of dense, gas-producing rock layers, such as the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.

Over the past few years, drilling in the Marcellus shale natural gas reserves has been a subject of much discussion and debate in New York State. The Marcellus shale extends deep underground from Ohio and West Virginia through Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York. While conventional gas wells are drilled vertically through rock layers into the geological formation containing the gas, well drillers can now sink a well vertically to the desired formation, then turn the drill horizontally to drill through a larger portion of that rock layer. Because the shale is dense, it must be cracked, or fractured, to release greater quantities of gas.

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