Vol. 30 Iss. 13 - February 24, 2014

Chapter 20
Final Regulation

REGISTRAR'S NOTICE: The Department of Environmental Quality is claiming an exemption from Article 2 of the Administrative Process Act in accordance with § 2.2-4006 A 3, which excludes regulations that consist only of changes in style or form or corrections of technical errors. The Department of Environmental Quality will receive, consider, and respond to petitions by any interested person at any time with respect to reconsideration or revision.

Title of Regulation: 9VAC15-20. Guidelines for the Preparation of Environmental Impact Assessments for Oil or Gas Well Drilling Operations in Tidewater Virginia (amending 9VAC15-20-10, 9VAC15-20-100, 9VAC15-20-110).

Statutory Authority: § 62.1-195.1 of the Code of Virginia.

Effective Date: March 26, 2014.

Agency Contact: Melissa Porterfield, Department of Environmental Quality, 629 East Main Street, P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA 23218, telephone (804) 698-4238, FAX (804) 698-4346, TTY (804) 698-4021, or email

Small Business Impact Review Report of Findings: This regulatory action serves as the report of the findings of the regulatory review pursuant to § 2.2-4007.1 of the Code of Virginia.


The amendments update references to reflect current statutes and regulations.

Part I
Applicability and General Requirements

9VAC15-20-10. Definitions.

The following words and terms, when used in this chapter, shall have the following meanings, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

"Access road" means a paved or unpaved route or path from a public highway or public road to a well site or associated facility.

"Associated facilities" means any facility used for gas or oil operations in the Commonwealth, other than a well or well site.

"Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area" means an area delineated by a local government in accordance with "9VAC10-20-10: "9VAC25-830: Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Designation and Management Regulations" and § 10.1-2109 62.1-44.15:74 of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act. A Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area consists of Resource Protection Areas and Resource Management Areas.

"Cuttings" means fragments of rock produced in a well bore by a drill bit and brought to the surface by drilling fluids or air pressure.

"Department of Environmental Quality" means the Department of Environmental Quality as described in § 10.1-1182 et seq. of the Code of Virginia.

"Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy" means the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy as described in § 45.1-1.1 45.1-161.1 et seq. of the Code of Virginia.

"Director of the Department of Environmental Quality" means the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality or his authorized agent.

"Director of the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy" means the Director of the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy or his authorized agent.

"Drilling fluid" means any fluid or drilling mud circulated in the well bore during drilling operations.

"Economic characteristics" means activities associated with the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services.

"Enhanced recovery" means (i) any activity involving injection of any air, gas, water or other fluid into the productive strata,; (ii) application of pressure, heat or other means for the reduction of viscosity of the hydrocarbons,; or (iii) the supplying of additional motive force other than normal pumping to increase the production of gas or oil from any well, wells or pool.

"Environment" means the natural, scenic and historic attributes of Virginia.

"Environmental impact assessment" or "assessment" means that documentation which that is required by § 62.1-195.1 of the Code of Virginia to be a part of any application for a permit to drill an oil or gas well in Tidewater Virginia.

"Exploratory well" means any well drilled (i) to find and produce gas or oil in an unproven area, (ii) to find a new reservoir in a field previously found to be productive of gas or oil in another reservoir, or (iii) to extend the limits of a known gas or oil reservoir.

"Facilities and equipment" means all infrastructure supporting the development, drilling, construction, completion or operation of any gas or oil operation including but not limited to well drilling equipment, well heads, separators, compressors, pumps, manifolds, vehicles, fluid circulation systems, waste handling facilities, storage tanks, valves, pipelines, etc., used to explore for, produce or transport oil or gas.

"Fiscal characteristics" means the structure of taxation, public revenue, public expenditure, and public debt.

"Gas" or "natural gas" means all natural gas whether hydrocarbon or nonhydrocarbon or any combination or mixture of them, including hydrocarbons, hydrogen sulfide, helium, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen, casing head gas and all other fluids not defined as oil.

"Gas or oil operation" or "operation" means any activity relating to drilling, redrilling, deepening, stimulating, production, enhanced recovery, converting from one type of well to another, combining or physically changing to allow the migration of fluid from one formation to another, plugging or replugging any well, land disturbing activity relating to the development, construction, operation and abandonment of a gathering pipeline, the development, operation, maintenance and restoration of any site involved with gas or oil operations, or any work undertaken at a facility used for gas or oil operations. The term embraces all of the land or property that is used for or which that contributes directly or indirectly to a gas or oil operation, including all roads.

"Gas well" means any well which that produces or appears capable of producing a ratio of 6,000 cubic feet (6 Mcf) of gas or more to each barrel of oil, on the basis of a gas-oil ratio test.

"Gathering pipeline" means (i) a pipeline which that is used or intended for use in the transportation of gas or oil from the well to a transmission pipeline or other pipeline regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or the State Corporation Commission or (ii) a pipeline which that is used or intended for use in the transportation of gas or oil from the well to an off-site storage, marketing, or other facility where the gas or oil is sold.

"Highly erodible soils" means soils (excluding vegetation) with an erodibility index (EI) from sheet and rill erosion equal to or greater than eight. The erodibility index for any soil is defined as the product of the formula RKLS/T, as defined by the Food Security Act (F.S.A.) Manual of August, 1988 in the "Field Office Technical Guide" of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, where K is the soil susceptibility to water erosion in the surface layer; R is the rainfall and runoff; LS is the combined effects of slope length and steepness; and T is the soil loss tolerance.

"Highly permeable soils" means soils with a given potential to transmit water through the soil profile. Highly permeable soils are identified as any soil having a permeability equal to or greater than six inches of water movement per hour in any part of the soil profile to a depth of 72 inches (permeability groups "rapid" and "very rapid") as found in the "National Soils Handbook" of July 1983 in the "Field Service Technical Guide" of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service.

"Historic properties" means any prehistoric or historic district, site, building, structure or object included in or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places or the Virginia Historical Landmarks Register including any artifacts, records and remains that are related to and located within such properties.

"Historic properties survey" means a survey undertaken to establish the presence or absence of historic properties, and any related and necessary management plans developed to conserve such resources.

"Land-disturbing activity" means any change in or reconfiguration of the land surface or vegetation on the land surface through vegetation clearing or earth moving activities including but not limited to clearing, grading, excavating, drilling, transporting or filling.

"Mcf" means, when used with reference to natural gas, one thousand cubic feet of gas at a pressure base of 14.73 pounds per square inch gauge and at a temperature base of 60°F.

"Natural area preserve" means a natural area that has been dedicated pursuant to § 10.1-213 of the Code of Virginia.

"Natural heritage resources" means the habitat of rare, threatened or endangered plant and animal species, rare or state significant natural communities or geologic sites, and similar features of scientific interest benefiting the welfare of the citizens of the Commonwealth.

"Natural heritage survey" means a survey undertaken to establish the presence or absence of natural heritage resources, and any related and necessary management plans developed to conserve such resources.

"Nontidal wetlands" means those wetlands other than tidal wetlands that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions, as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in response to § 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, in 33 CFR 328.3b.

"Oil" means natural crude oil or petroleum and other hydrocarbons, regardless of gravity, which that are produced at the well in liquid form by ordinary production methods and which that are not the result of condensation of gas after it leaves the underground reservoir.

"Oil well" means any well which that produces or appears capable of producing a ratio of less than 6,000 cubic feet (6 Mcf) of gas to each barrel of oil, on the basis of a gas-oil ratio test.

"Open space" means any land, water, or submerged land which that is provided for, preserved for, or used for (i) park or recreational purposes,; (ii) conservation of land or other natural resources,; (iii) cultural, historic or scenic purposes,; (iv) assisting in the shaping of the character, direction, and timing of community development,; or (v) nontidal or tidal wetlands.

"Operations area" means the location of the well, well site, associated facilities, production facilities, access roads, pipeline systems, and other related facilities and equipment necessary to the conduct of a gas or oil operation.

"Person" means any individual or group, any partnership, corporation, association, organization or other legal entity, including any public body.

"Pipeline corridor" means those areas that pipeline systems pass through or will be constructed to pass through, including associated easements, leases, or rights-of-way.

"Pipeline systems" means all parts of those physical facilities through which gas or oil moves in transportation, including but not limited to pipes, valves, and other appurtenances attached to pipes such as compressor units, metering stations, regulator stations, delivery stations, holders, or other related facilities.

"Pipeline corridor" means those areas which pipeline systems pass through or will be constructed to pass through, including associated easements, leases, or rights-of-way.

"Production well" means a well, related production facilities and equipment and activities related to the drilling of a well for the purpose of developing and producing, or converting an exploratory well to develop or produce, oil or gas from geological strata for the purpose of sale, exchange, transfer or use by the owner or for the purpose of exchange, transfer, sale or use by any other person.

"Rare, threatened or endangered species" means any insect, fish, wildlife or plant species which that is listed as, is a candidate for listing as, or is recommended for listing as a rare, threatened or endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, or the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

"Recreational resources" means the broad range of outdoor and indoor public and private areas and facilities, many of which are identified in the "Virginia Outdoors Plan," used in meeting Virginia's recreational needs including but not limited to public parks, public forests, natural areas, wildlife management areas, lakes and reservoirs, historic resources, trails, rivers, beaches, water access areas, Virginia byways, tidal and nontidal wetlands, and greenways.

"Scenic resources" means features which that characterize an area by giving it a special visual identity or which that present unique vistas or landscapes, including but not limited to such features as designated or candidate state or federal scenic rivers, federal or state scenic highways or parkways, Virginia byways, and scenic values as recognized by local, state or federal governments.

"Tidal wetlands" means "vegetated wetlands" and "nonvegetated wetlands" as defined in § 62.1-13.2 28.2-1300 of the Code of Virginia.

"Tidewater Virginia" means that area of Virginia as defined in § 10.1-2101 62.1-44.15:68 of the Code of Virginia and the localities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

"Virginia Outdoors Plan" means the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan developed and administered by the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

"Waste from gas, oil, or geophysical operations" means any substance other than gas or oil which that is (i) produced or generated during or results from the development, drilling and completion of wells and associated facilities or the development and construction of gathering pipelines or (ii) produced or generated during or results from well, pipeline and associated facilities' operations including, but not limited to, brines and produced fluids other than gas or oil. In addition, this term shall include all rubbish and debris, including all material generated during or resulting from well plugging, site restoration, or the removal and abandonment of gathering pipelines and associated facilities.

"Well" means any shaft or hole sunk, drilled, bored or dug into the earth or into underground strata for the extraction, injection or replacement of any gaseous or liquid substance, or any shaft or hole sunk or used in conjunction with such extraction, injection or placement. The term shall not include any shaft or hole, sunk, drilled, bored, or dug into the earth for the sole purpose of pumping or extracting therefrom potable, fresh or usable water for household, domestic, industrial, agricultural, or public use and shall not include water boreholes, methane drainage boreholes where the methane is vented or flared rather than produced and saved, subsurface boreholes drilled from the mine face or an underground coal mine, any other boreholes necessary or convenient for the extraction of coal or drilled pursuant to a uranium exploratory program carried out pursuant to the laws of this Commonwealth, or any coal or nonfuel mineral core hole or borehole for the purpose of exploration.

9VAC15-20-100. Spill release and contingency planning.

A. The environmental impact assessment shall describe procedures which that will be developed and implemented to prepare for, equipment which that will be installed to detect and respond to, and facilities and equipment which that will be installed or available to contain minor, moderate and major discharges of oil, condensate, natural gas, waste from gas, oil, or geophysical operations or fluids as defined pursuant to the requirements of 9VAC15-20-80 as well as fires or other hazards to the environment. A discharge contingency plan prepared in conformance with the requirements of the State Water Control Board's regulation entitled "Oil Discharge Contingency Plans and Administrative Fees for Approval" (9VAC25-90-10 et seq.) "Facility and Aboveground Storage Tank (AST) Regulation" (9VAC25-91) will fulfill the information requirement of this section.

9VAC15-20-110. Hydrogen sulfide release contingency planning.

A. A discussion of the potential for encountering hydrogen sulfide shall be included in the assessment. The assessment shall discuss steps that will be taken, if any, to respond if indicators of such gas are encountered, if there exists a potential for a release of hydrogen sulfide gas, or in the event of a hydrogen sulfide release.

B. A hydrogen sulfide release contingency plan should address the following:

1. Methods and devices that will be used to detect hydrogen sulfide gas to prevent the gas from becoming an environmental concern. Include and include a description of detection equipment to be used and equipment testing and calibration procedures.

2. Operating procedures to be employed if the operations area atmospheric concentration of hydrogen sulfide gas reaches limits established by the Department of Labor and Industry in "VR 425-02-36 Air Contaminants (1910.1000)" and including include a discussion of:

a. Appropriate emergency notification procedures for local residents, emergency service and medical personnel;

b. Notification procedures for responsible regulatory agencies; and

c. Appropriate visual and audible warning systems for atmospheric hydrogen sulfide gas within the operations area.

3. The potential for continuous low-level hydrogen sulfide emissions (one hour average) to result in concentrations in areas of public access above levels deemed harmful to human health in accordance with the State Air Pollution Control Board's "Emission Standards for Toxic Pollutants (9VAC5-40-160 through 9VAC5-40-230)" from Existing Sources" (9VAC5-60-200 through 9VAC5-60-270) and "Standards of Performance for Toxic Pollutants (9VAC5-50-160 through 9VAC5-50-230)" "Emission Standards for Toxic Pollutants from New and Modified Sources" (9VAC5-60-300 through 9VAC5-60-370).

VA.R. Doc. No. R14-3882; Filed February 4, 2014, 2:44 p.m.