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Non-Existent New York Seismic Regulations

Non-Existent New York Seismic Regulations

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New York has the worst seismic regulations, because there aren't any . . .
New York has the worst seismic regulations, because there aren't any . . .

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Categories:Business/Law
Published by: James "Chip" Northrup on Mar 08, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/28/2013

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Why the DEC Does Not Regulate Seismic Tests
It Does Not Know What They Are
New York State has
no
standards for seismic testing, no setbacks for seismic test blasts - except on state land. Meaning a seismic crewcan shoot a shot-hole with dynamite anywhere in the state, includingnext to a daycare center – so far as the DEC cares. Needless to say,this is not the case in other states that actually know how to regulateoil and gas production, and, unlike the DEC, have a complete set of rules and regulations, including setbacks for seismic tests :Montana – 1,320 feet from any building, water well or springNorth Dakota – 600 feet from buildings, water wells, springsWyoming - 1,320 from building or water wellMaryland – 500 feet from a buildingOklahoma – 200 feet from a water well Arkansas – 200 feet from a residenceLouisiana – 1,000 feet from a
boat Boats
in Louisiana have more protection from seismic testing than doresidents of New York. Why are New York’s seismic regulations non-existent ? Two reasons: If the DEC had regulations on seismic tests,
they would have to
 
actually enforce those regulations
, which the DECdoes not want to do.
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Secondly, the DEC has consistently deferred tolocal land use ordinances, leaving the municipalities the task of dealing with the impacts of shale gas industrialization, includingseismic testing.
2
 
In the absence of local ordinances, New Yorkersare left with no protection from the hazards of seismic tests.
Why did the DEC completely ignore seismic testing ?
The 2009 DSGEIS addressed
naturally occurring seismic events
(ie.earthquakes) in Chapter 4, but was silent on the impacts seismictests via shot-hole blasts, which are commonly used to locatesubsurface gas reservoirs including shale gas targets.This oversight persisted in the 2011 RDSGEIS. The 2011 RDSGEIS
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discusses
earthquakes
- and seismically induced fractures fromfracking operations, but does not include any analysis of the potentialimpacts or mitigation needed for seismic blasts used to target shaleformations for drilling. These seismic tests are also useful to identifylocal fault systems, which are both poorly understood in New York,and, according to the USGS, are understated by the DEC.
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In January 2011, NYS’ consultant, Alpha Geoscience provided amisguided recommendation to NYSDEC
to ignore seismic datacollection mitigation in the RDSGEIS, as “irrelevant.” 
Becauseseismic data collection is typically the first step in unexplored areas,seismic tests to identify localized faulting is hardly “irrelevant.” Absent any mention in the SGEIS, it is unclear whether NYSDEC iseven familiar with the use of seismic tests to target shale formationsor localized faults - or whether shale gas operators have toldNYSDEC that they don’t intend to collect seismic data prior toexploring in the Marcellus Shale. If the latter is the case, localizedfaulting in New York will continue to remain a mystery – at risk of bothaquifer pollution and the inducement of earthquakes.
Seismic Testing
Seismic exploration equipment is used to send shock waves into theearth. Shock waves are generated by a surface positioned sourceand are measured by a surface positioned receiver. The rate thatseismic energy is transmitted and received through the earth crustprovides information on the subsurface geology, because seismicwaves reflect at different speeds and intensity off various rock strataand geologic structures. A seismic survey involves generating hundreds to tens of thousandsof seismic source events, or shots, at various locations in the surveyarea. The seismic energy generated by each shot is detected andrecorded by sensitive receivers (“geophones” ) at a variety of distances from the source location. Geophones are connected bylong cables to relay the collected information back to a centralizedcomputer.
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For every source event, each geophone generates a seismogram or trace, which is a time series representing the earth movement at thereceiver location. A record of all traces for each shot is transmitted toa computer for storage and conversion into a seamless cross-sectional representation of the subsurface for subsequent study andinterpretation by a trained geophysicist.Seismic operations involve generation of seismic vibrations byexplosive energy sources or by mechanical sources. One type of energy source for seismic exploration is an explosive charge. Smallholes (“shot- holes”), typically 4 inches in diameter are drilled intothe earth surface, 10-60’ deep depending on surface terrain. Although, some drill holes have been drilled to 200 feet – deeper thanmost Upstate water wells.The hole must be drilled into a hard layer of soil that is sufficientlydense to carry the seismic wave. Explosive charges (typically 5-50pounds each of dynamite) are lowered into the hole and detonated tocreate a shock wave. Most states have limits on the size of chargesthat can be deployed near environmentally sensitive areas, humaninhabitation and near roadways.
New York has no such limitations.
 Mechanical vibrators are an alternative to explosives. Mechanicalvibrators can include: a pad that thumps the surface of the earth(“thumper trucks”), driven by gravity or compressed air; a truck thatgenerates vibrations and compressed air guns. The use of thumper trucks is not considered best practice because it involves dropping asteel slab that weighs about three tons to the ground to create aseismic vibration. Thumper trucks are large, requiring extensive treeand vegetation removal, and can leave land scars.The absence of setbacks for seismic can create real problems, sincethe seismic blast can damage nearby water wells and springs. 
Seismic should be required as a condition of permitting
Since localized faulting is poorly understood in New York,
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drillersshould be required to shoot seismic on each lateral drilled – andsubmit their findings to the DEC for the purpose of mapping fault
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