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Maryland Releases Draft Marcellus Best Practices Report

The Maryland Departments of the Environment (MDE) and Natural Resources (MDNR) recently released a draft report on recommended best practices for Marcellus Shale development in Maryland, pursuant to Maryland’s Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative.  The Initiative, established in accordance with Governor O’Malley’s January 2011 executive order, requires MDE and MDNR to conduct, in consultation with an Advisory Commission, a three-part study and report the findings and recommendations.  The Commission is comprised of policymakers, academics, regulators, industry representatives, and environmental group representatives.  The three parts of the study are: 1) findings and recommendations regarding sources of revenue and standards of liability for damages caused by gas exploration and production; 2) recommendations for best practices for natural gas exploration and production in the Marcellus Shale; and 3) findings and recommendations regarding the potential impact of Marcellus Shale drilling.  (The recently-released joint agency report represents Part II.)  The Part II study was based on a survey of exploration, production, and midstream practices from several states by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Appalachian Laboratory.  Part III is expected to be completed in August 2014.

A unique recommendation of the Part II study is that producers would be required to have a “Comprehensive Gas Development Plan” (CGDP) as a prerequisite to a well permit application.  The CGDP would need to address comprehensive planning for foreseeable gas development activities in an area including pipelines, pads, roads, and other ancillary activities, rather than considering each well individually.  The CGDP would be subject to public comment and submitted to the State for approval.

MDE is accepting public comment on the draft Part II report until August 9, 2013.