“Monumental” Water Withdrawal Legislation Will Soon Become Law in NY – DEC Gets Big Tool to Tightly Control Gas Drilling

It’s looking quite likely that legislation requiring a permit from the Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for any water withdrawals from a lake, river or stream in New York State exceeding 100,000 gallons will soon become law. As MDN previously reported (see here), the NY Assembly passed a bill in May governing water withdrawals from state waterways. Now, the NY Senate has joined them in unanimously passing the same bill. It now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for signature.

Marcellus drilling operations, which have not yet begun in New York State due to a moratorium, require large amounts of water per well drilled—some 3 to 4 million gallons per well. This new law requiring permits for water withdrawals is one of the important tools that the DEC will use to control drilling in the state when drilling finally begins. No water—no drilling. Or, “Take your time approving that permit,” to slow things down. It’s a powerful tool that the DEC can (and assuredly will) use to keep tight control over gas drilling in the state.

The state Senate has unanimously passed a bill that gives the state permission to build a permitting system for large withdrawals from many of the state’s lakes, rivers and streams.

The legislation, passed late Thursday, will require anyone with the capacity to withdraw at least 100,000 gallons from the state’s waterways to get a permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation first.

The bill was passed by the Assembly last month, and now heads to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for approval. It was proposed by the DEC, which is led by a Cuomo appointee.

"Passage of this monumental legislation will protect our environment by regulating the amount of water that can be extracted," said Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, who sponsored the bill.

Currently, the state operates under a "riparian rights" system, meaning anyone who owns property adjacent to most bodies of water can withdraw from it.

The DEC has said the permitting system is necessary in order to monitor the state’s water resources, and it would enhance the riparian rights by still allowing small-scale users fair use of the water.*

*Elmira Star-Gazette (Jun 19, 2011) – Water-withdrawal bill passes Senate, heads to Cuomo’s desk