Updates to Oil and Gas Operations rules finalized, moving state one step closer to UIC primacy

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s (EGLE) Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division (OGMD) has announced that an update to the Oil and Gas Operations administrative rules under Part 615 became effective Oct. 18, 2019.

According to OGMD Permitting and Technical Services Section Manager Mark Snow, the changes contained in what is known as the 2019-01 Oil and Gas Operations rule set were proposed and carried out in order to better align Michigan’s program for protecting underground sources of drinking water (USDW) with federal standards for the pursuit of Class II UIC well primacy.

This rules package will ensure that the State of Michigan has an equally effective program for protecting USDW compared to the federal program by expanding and strengthening the definition of USDW. Under the new rule set, fresh water is defined as water containing less than 1,000 milligrams per liter of total dissolved solids (R 324.102). Mineral water is defined as water that contains 1,000 milligrams per liter or more of total dissolved solids (R 324.103). Both are protected under the updated rules.

The previous rule had defined fresh water as “water that is free of contamination in concentrations that may cause disease or harmful physiological effects and is safe for human consumption”.

The revised rules put in place additional safeguards for Michigan’s fresh water resources and gives the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy another tool it needs to protect drinking water and safely regulate Class II injection wells.

The 2019-01 Oil and Gas Operations rule set was the first rule set to go through the new Environmental Rules Review Committee at their very first meeting last March. The committee, established last year through Public Act 267 of 2018, was created within the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget to oversee the EGLE’s rulemaking process.

The committee is comprised of four ex-officio department directors from the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Department of Natural Resources as non-voting members. In addition to the Department Directors, the board also consists of 12 voting members representing waste management; manufacturing; small businesses; utilities; environmental; oil and gas; conservancy and agricultural organizations; local governments; public health professionals and the public.

MOGA Director David Maness, president of Maness Petroleum is on the Committee, representing Michigan’s oil and gas industry alongside others from these stakeholder groups.

At the committee’s first meeting, Oil, Gas, and Minerals Director Adam Wygant gave a presentation outlining the “2019-01 Oil and Gas Operations” rule set. The presentation highlighted the definition clarifications made to satisfy the U.S. EPA’s comments on the State’s UIC Primacy Application, as noted above. Following the presentation and questions, the Committee considered the rules package and voted to move it forward into the final steps of the rule-making process, sitting before the legislature for 15 session days.

The rule set is now final. In addition to this rule change, the EPA required a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) From EGLE Director Liesl Clark. The Director recently signed the MOA and now the EPA can consider the next step in the process of delegating the UIC program to Michigan, a Federal Register posting.

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