Development of Solution Salt Mining Regulation
Development of New York's Solution Salt Mining Regulatory Program
Kathleen F. Sanford
Presented at 1996 annual forum of the Ground Water Protection Council September 1996
New York's current solution mining regulatory program was founded in 1973 when the oil and gas law was amended to include solution mining wells. Prior to this legislation, the scope of state knowledge regarding solution mining facilities was extremely limited. State involvement in review and approval of well drilling and plugging proposals increased after 1973, but cavern development operations and well abandonments continued to occur with little state oversight. At the end of 1973, there were 250 unplugged solution mining wells at six facilities, including five active operations and one shut down in 1962. No more than 60 wells were in use, leaving at least 190 that had been abandoned but not plugged. By 1973, five sinkholes had formed in the Tully Valley brine field in Onondaga County, where 156 abandoned wells were located.
Higher drilling fees imposed in 1981 allowed the state to add staff and increase oversight of solution mining operations. Reconnaissance inspections in 1984 revealed the problems in Tully Valley; thus, the early emphasis of the state program was on enforcement and remediation efforts at this single facility. Production ceased in Tully Valley in 1988; well plugging began in 1989 and was completed in 1995.
Since 1993 New York's program has been redirected at maintaining an appropriate level of involvement with active solution mining operations. Accomplishments have included comprehensive field inspections, development of a shut-in well program, and enhanced annual reporting. Currently underway is an effort to eliminate duplication of the EPA-implemented UIC program and strengthen aspects of the state program that are not completely addressed under UIC. Ensuring stability of solution-mined caverns during installation and development is the primary focus of this regulatory reassessment phase.
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