There is an extremely important component of environmental regulations, which could well become significant as we unpack and dig into the Marcellus shale environmental issues, such as those under scrutiny by members of Shaleshock.org.

The basic idea is that that effluent data (for discharges to aqueous environments), and emissions data (to air) usually cannot be held back from the public, no matter what, and confidentiality claims often simply do not apply.

The boat can be missed these matters, in my experience, because of a failure to drill down into what exactly constitutes effluent data and emissions data (and subsequent failure to act accordingly, in writing).

In terms of the Marcellus shale, it is apparent that confidentiality claims have been filed for  chemicals the drillers plan to inject, and later remove, from the subsurface. (Attorneys often file such claims, which are based upon the idea that the information is a trade secret.)

Do these claims hold water? Not necessarily in the context of the draft permit currently in the public comment phase, and definitely not where SPDES (State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits are concerned.  SPDES permits are required for discharges to the surface, and for other types of disposal of used drilling chemicals, and may be necessary for at least some, if not all, drilling sites, as discussed in the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) for drilling in the Marcellus shale.

Here is the relevant component from the state regulations on SPDES permits (which are connected to federal law):

§750-1.22 Confidentiality of Information

(a) The following shall not be held confidential: The name and address of any permit applicant or permittee; effluent data, SPDES permits, permit applications (including permit renewal applications), priority ranking fact sheets or requests for permit modification, suspension or revocation, including information submitted on the forms themselves and any attachments used to supply information required by the forms (except information submitted on usage of substances).

(b) Upon request of the applicant, the department shall make determinations of confidentiality in accordance with Part 616 of this Title, except as set forth by subdivision (a) of this section.

(c) Any information accorded confidential status shall be disclosed to the Regional Administrator upon his or her written request. Prior to disclosing such information to the Regional Administrator, the department will notify the Regional Administrator of the confidential status of such information.

So, effluent data cannot be held confidential.  Why not?  (We’ll get to its definition shortly.)  The reason is that people have  a need to know what they (and other critters) could be exposed to in their water (and in their air).


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