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Virginia Administrative Code
Title 9. Environment
Agency 15. Department of Environmental Quality
Chapter 20. Guidelines for the Preparation of Environmental Impact Assessments for Oil or Gas Well Drilling Operations in Tidewater Virginia
2/6/2023

9VAC15-20-70. Description of the environment and natural resource features potentially affected by the gas or oil operation.

A. The discussion under this part shall include a description of the existing environment and natural resource features that will be or may be affected by the gas or oil operation and how they will be or may be affected. The analysis of the environment and natural resource features shall encompass, at the minimum, any area located within 1320 feet of a proposed well and within 100 feet of proposed pipeline systems or associated facilities unless the applicant for the permit to drill can demonstrate that a smaller impact analysis area is appropriate given the nature and location of the proposed gas or oil operation and the potential impact of such an operation on the environment and natural resources. The 1320-foot distance is half of the statewide well spacing requirement set out for gas wells in § 45.2-1616 of the Code of Virginia and will ensure that the impact analysis for wells established in Tidewater Virginia at the statewide spacing will be tangential. The 100-foot distance from pipelines and associated facilities will ensure that Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas or other environmentally sensitive resources that may be affected by the oil or gas operation will be detected. The potential for impacts by the proposed oil or gas operation on natural resource features and the environment that are located outside of the 1320-foot impact analysis area for wells and the 100-foot impact analysis area for pipeline systems and associated facilities shall also be considered and discussed. The discussion shall be supported with graphic information in the form of a plat at a scale between 1:1000 and 1:4000 showing the location of natural resources that will be or may be affected by the proposed operation. The discussion shall include:

1. Physical site conditions such as:

a. Topographical features including relief, slope, project area elevation, and landscape features such as beaches, sand dunes, shorelines, etc.;

b. Surface water hydrology and drainage patterns including locations of embayments, rivers or streams and related subaqueous beds, tidal or nontidal wetlands, and the 100-year floodplain in the watershed potentially affected by the proposed operation;

c. Existing surface water quality characteristics and how water quality may be affected by emissions from the proposed operation;

d. Existing air quality and how air quality may be affected by emissions from the proposed operation;

e. Geological conditions such as groundwater hydrogeology, including the depths to the top and bottom of groundwater aquifers; general characteristics of the geologic strata to be penetrated by drilling activities; and a discussion of the possibility for land subsidence and any potential impacts associated with land subsidence which may result from the operation;

f. A description of the existing water quality of groundwater aquifers that will be or may be affected by drilling activities or liquid waste disposal activities focusing particularly on the potability of water in potentially affected aquifers and the extent to which identified aquifers are currently used as domestic or community water supplies;

g. A discussion of the soil types on which an operation will be located, including an identification of prime agricultural lands, highly permeable soils, highly erodible soils, and soil profile descriptions of each representative soil series on the well site to a depth of 72 inches;

h. The identification and location of any public water supply intakes within the watershed where an operation will occur and located within 10 miles downstream of the proposed well site or any public or private water supply wells located within a one-mile radius of the proposed oil or gas well drilling operation; and

i. Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas, both Resource Protection Areas (RPAs) and Resource Management Areas (RMAs), located within 1320 feet of the proposed operations area.

2. Biological conditions and resources including:

a. A description of the terrestrial and aquatic habitat types and associated flora and fauna, including any natural heritage resources that are documented by performing a natural heritage survey in conformance with methodologies established by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and any rare, threatened, or endangered species present;

b. A description of the use patterns of terrestrial habitat by wildlife, including areas such as nesting, roosting, breeding, and calving areas or other unique natural habitat;

c. A description of the use patterns of freshwater, estuarine, and marine habitat by terrestrial and aquatic species, including submerged aquatic vegetation, fish spawning areas, shellfish beds, habitat of anadromous fish and other finfish, and benthic organisms; and

d. State Wildlife Management Areas, State Natural Area Preserves, National Wildlife Refuges, or elements of Virginia's National Estuarine Research Reserve System or other unique or important natural communities.

3. Culturally important areas such as historical, open space, and recreational resources, including those resources listed in the Virginia Outdoors Plan, including:

a. Historic properties that are documented by performing a historic properties survey in conformance with guidelines established by the Department of Historic Resources;

b. Public beaches;

c. Scenic resources;

d. Public water access sites;

e. Local, state, or national parks, recreational areas, open space, or forests;

f. State-owned or state managed lands;

g. Federally-owned or federally managed lands;

h. Easements held for agricultural, forestal, open space, horticultural, or other conservation purposes; and

i. Prime agricultural lands as identified by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service and important farm lands as identified by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

B. Describe the typical noise levels currently existing at the proposed operations areas. Describe any operation activities that will produce noise over 65 decibels measured at the boundary of the operations area, the source and daily duration of those activities producing the noise, and the estimated external noise level at the nearest noise receptor such as a residence, school, hospital, business, public meeting place, feature identified in the Virginia Outdoors Plan, or wildlife habitat. The applicant should describe what measures, if any, will be taken to reduce projected exterior noise levels below 65 decibels at the nearest receptor.

C. Describe any activities associated with the operation that will produce light or glare within the operations area after sundown and before dawn. Describe the hours that artificial lighting sources will exist, including flaring of wells, gas processing facilities, or production facilities, the intensity of any light sources, and the time such light sources would be in operation. Describe the potential aesthetic, nuisance, safety, or environmental hazards that light or glare may produce outside of the operations area. Describe what steps, if any, that will be taken to minimize light or glare.

D. Describe the actions and measures that will be taken to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts on natural, scenic, recreational, and historic resources identified in the assessment. The assessment shall also discuss irrevocable or irreversible losses of the natural resources identified in the assessment.

Statutory Authority

§ 45.2-1646 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR304-02-01 § 2.2, eff. November 3, 1993; amended, Virginia Register Volume 38, Issue 8, eff. January 5, 2022.

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