What can be done to address health concerns? What have others done?

INDUSTRY REPRESENTATIVES

Quality of Life—Noise Impacts

The best way to alleviate the effects of noise at the well site is by increasing the distance between the source and the person hearing it (“the receptor”). With multi-well pad shale development operations, one pad can drain a larger basin than in conventional oil and gas development, allowing more flexibility with regard to pad location. State requirements for setbacks of well pads from residences vary significantlyIn an RFF survey, 20 states were found to have building setback restrictions for natural gas wellheads, ranging from 100 feet to 1,000 feet, with an average restriction of 308 feet. 1 After examining composite noise levels for various activities involved in shale development, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recommended in a 2015 report setbacks of at least 1,000 feet, or even greater distances for multi-well pads. 2

In addition to following setback restrictions, the operator could undertake the following activities in the permitting phase:

  • conducting a noise impact assessment  that accounts for the presence of vulnerable populations or individuals in the vicinity
  • siting access roads as far away from homes, schools, and other sensitive buildings as possible
  • selecting a site that allows the topography or vegetation to act as sound barriers
  • piping  in water and/or recycling it on site to reduce truck traffic to the site (it is worth noting that pipelines have their own impacts, discussed in Appendix E)

Quality of Life—Visual Impacts

As with noise, the operator could seek to avoid visual impacts by siting well pads and access roads away from visually sensitive areas. Mitigation measures to consider during the permitting phase include:

  • minimizing the footprint of the well pad
  • reducing the size of  fluid retention ponds or replacing them with storage tanks
  • using topography or vegetation to screen the site from view
  • seeking to reduce  the visual impact of structures such as compressor stations through design considerations (for example, by emulating the area’s existing agricultural structures) 3

Notes:

  1. Richardson, Nathan, Madeline Gottlieb, Alan Krupnick, and Hannah Wiseman. “The State of State Shale Gas Regulation.” Resources for the Future (June 2013), 24-28.
  2. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, “High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing in NYS: 2015 Final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) Documents” (April 2015), 7-134.
  3. Earthworks, “Oil and Gas at Your Door?” I-71.