The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is developing new rules for hydraulic fracturing that would add protections for water resources and require additional chemical data submissions from drilling companies. In a press release issued on October 22, 2013, the Department stated that the proposed rules focus on four key areas: water withdrawal assessment and monitoring, water quality sampling, monitoring and reporting, and chemical additive disclosure.

The proposed rules will obligate permit applicants to use Michigan’s water withdrawal assessment tool to determine if a proposed water withdrawal is likely to cause an Adverse Resource Impact on nearby streams and rivers. Additionally, an operator will be required to install a monitor well and report water levels if there is a water supply well within 1,320 feet of a proposed withdrawal. The new rules also set specifications for water storage pits.

The proposed rules would impact water quality sampling by requiring oil and gas operators to collect baseline samples from up to 10 water supply wells within 1,320 feet of gas and oil wells, six months or less before drilling operations begin.

The rules will impose new requirement on high-volume fracturing operations (operations that intend to use a total of more than 100,000 gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluid), requiring operators to disclose in a new permit application whether high-volume fracturing will be utilized. For existing well operations, Operators will have to submit separate applications for high-volume fracturing operations. In addition, operators will be obligated to notify DEQ at least 48 hours in advance before starting high-volume fracturing and monitor and report fluid pressures and volumes for all high-volume fracturing operations.

Finally, the new rules will require operators to submit information on chemical additives in a high-volume fracturing operation by using the FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry. Operators will need to disclose the chemical constituents and maximum concentrations of the fracturing fluid.

DEQ expects the new rules to be in place in 2014. Prior to going into effect, the proposed rules will be submitted to the state Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and go through a public review process. Accordingly, the rules may be altered or amended.