The Commission has released a proposed rulemaking and three related groundwater review policies for public comment. The rulemaking and policies will be open for written public comment until May 17, 2021 and oral testimony may be provided at a public hearing on May 6, 2021.
The proposed regulations and policies are designed to provide clarity to project sponsors, target only the most appropriate activities, and establish a more efficient and effective framework to review groundwater withdrawals and to solidify our processes to handle an anticipated 200-250 groundwater renewal applications over the next 5 years. In addition, with the successful implementation of grandfathering registration, the regulation proposes changes to simplify our regulations concerning these grandfathered projects. The regulations would also codify and build upon successful program changes with the Commission’s natural gas consumptive use (ABR(f)) program, its minor modification regulation, and general project review regulations.
The proposed changes should benefit both the Commission and the regulated community, while maintaining proper oversight of water resources. The Commission recognizes that changing climate conditions will present additional challenges to groundwater management. The proposed rules will ensure wells are permitted and monitored in efficient but robust ways that allow the Commission to provide dynamic decision making as impacts of climate change manifest. Further, the proposed rules and policies will help reduce costs, both to systems that are smaller and have economic challenges, including communities with environmental justice concerns.
The Commission will hold two informational webinars on April 6 and April 14 to help the public and regulated community understand the proposal and answer questions from our stakeholder community. The proposed rule and policies are available on the links below or can be made available upon request by contacting Jason Oyler, Secretary and General Counsel of the Commission at (717) 238-0423 ext. 1312 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternative Hydrogeologic Evaluation Policy Currently prior to submitting an application for groundwater withdrawals, project sponsors must satisfy the requirements of 18 CFR 806.12 by either completing an aquifer test in accordance with a Commission approved aquifer testing plan (Plan) or by requesting a waiver of the aquifer testing requirement. This waiver process has been the source of complaints to the Commission because of perceived uncertainty of the process. The Commission proposes to replace this waiver process with an Alternate Hydrogeologic Evaluation (AHE).
This new policy provides guidance to project sponsors and consultants for the preparation of an AHE. The purpose of an AHE is to promote better management of the water resources in the Basin by allowing project sponsors to more effectively utilize and evaluate existing and site-specific information during the review process, especially given any changing conditions on the landscape within the recharge area of its sources or with changing hydrologic/climatic conditions. This policy reduces uncertainty and provides guidance for project sponsors to follow a streamlined, risk-based approach for evaluation of their existing data and/or information for the requested withdrawal’s sustainability, impacts to other users, and impacts to the environment. A properly completed AHE will provide Commission staff with sufficient, targeted information to evaluate the important aspects of a project without requiring completion of a new aquifer test, which will reduce costs to projects coming before the Commission for renewal.
Aquifer Testing Plan Guidance For groundwater withdrawals, 18 CFR § 806.12 details that, prior to submitting an application, a project sponsor seeking approval for a new groundwater withdrawal, renewal of an expiring groundwater withdrawal, or an increase of a groundwater withdrawal, shall complete an aquifer test to collect suitable data for evaluation, where it cannot complete an AHE under a companion policy.
This policy clarifies the requirements and procedures to be followed by project sponsors regarding an aquifer test. The document provides guidelines for developing an implementable aquifer test plan that will produce suitable data and satisfy regulatory standards, to be reviewed and approved by Commission staff before testing is undertaken.
This is an updated version of Commission Policy 2007-01 – Aquifer Testing Guidance. The primary changes to the draft revised policy are:
Pre-Drill Well Site Review Policy This is a new policy that encourages project sponsors to utilize our currently existing pre-drill review assistance program for a potential groundwater well site. This policy highlights and promotes voluntary utilization of this assistance. The policy’s objectives are:
The Pre-Drill Well Site Review is voluntary, but the Commission encourages project sponsors to engage in this process and seek assistance from the Commission early in the development of a new water supply project. There is a nominal fee associated with staff review, which can be applied to a subsequent application with the Commission.
To inform the regulated community and the public about these changes, the Commission will be holding two informational webinars to explain the proposed rulemaking
Webinars will be held on April 6, 2021 at 6pm and on April 14, 2021 at 2pm. Please register for the webinar 24 hours in advance. For more information or to register for the webinar, click here.
Written comments on the proposed regulations may be submitted via the Commission Public Comment Website or to: Jason E. Oyler, Esq., General Counsel, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, 4423 N. Front Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110-1788, or by e-mail to email@example.com on or before May 17, 2020.