Pennsylvania General Energy, Inc. (Wilson Hollow Field) - Interim Decision, June 5, 2001
Interim Decision, June 5, 2001
STATE OF NEW YORK
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION
50 Wolf Road
Albany, New York 12233-1010
In the Matter
- of -
the Application of Pennsylvania General Energy, Inc. to construct and operate
natural gas wells in an area designated as the Wilson Hollow Field and an order
establishing field wide spacing pursuant to the New York State
Environmental Conservation Law ("ECL"), Article 23, and 6 NYCRR Part 553.
DEC Case No. DMN-01-1
June 5, 2001
This Interim Decision relates to an appeal by Buck Mountain Associates ("Buck Mountain") from the Ruling on Issues and Party Status ("Ruling") of Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Molly T. McBride rendered May 3, 2001. The Ruling relates to the Department of Environmental Conservation Staff's ("Staff") request for a Commissioner's Order for field wide spacing and integration rules for the Wilson Hollow Field. Pennsylvania General Energy, Inc. ("PGE") filed applications to construct and operate natural gas wells in an area designated as the Wilson Hollow Field. Pursuant to the New York State Environmental Conservation Law ("ECL"), Article 23, and 6 NYCRR Part 553, the Commissioner has the authority to issue an order establishing field wide spacing rules that will result in the efficient and economical development of a natural gas pool. The Department regulates the development, production and utilization of natural resources within the State, including natural gas.
The Department Staff and PGE entered into a written Stipulation regarding the Wilson Hollow Field providing for the creation of unit sizes and shapes and the spacing of wells to ensure that all affected interest owners receive a fair and equitable compensation upon issuance of a final Commissioner's Order. The ECL directs that such an order shall result only after a public hearing is held.
A combined Notice of Negative Declaration and Notice of Public Hearing dated February 23, 2001, was published in the internet publication, Environmental Notice Bulletin ("ENB") on February 28, 2001 and in the Corning Leader on March 7th and March 11th, 2001. Copies of the Notice were also sent to the persons identified as interested parties and to Steuben and Chemung counties and the towns and villages where the Field is located. The public hearing was held on April 10, 2001 and the issues conference was held on April 11, 2001.
Petitions requesting party status were filed prior to the hearing by the following: Todd and Lynne Wetherill, Columbia Natural Resources, Buck Mountain, John Young and James and Julie Young.
ALJ McBride conducted the public hearing and issues conference. By Ruling dated May 3, 2001, the ALJ denied the petitions for party status and concluded that no substantive and significant issues were proposed for adjudication and therefore, no issues required adjudication. The Ruling also provided that pursuant to 6 NYCRR subdivisions 624.6(e) and (g),and 624.8(d), the rulings on party status and issues may be appealed in writing to the Commissioner and all appeals were due by May 11, 2001.
Buck Mountain, by cover letter dated May 10, 2001, appealed the Ruling, stating its reasons to reverse the ALJ, and requested an additional two weeks to submit a brief in support of the appeal. No other hearing participant filed an appeal.
By letter of May 16, 2001, DEC Staff requested an opportunity to respond to any brief to be filed in support of Buck Mountain's appeal. Further, Staff noted that Buck Mountain did not contest any aspect of the ALJ's Ruling except with respect to one parcel within the Fratarcangelo unit and that the other well units within the Wilson Hollow Field would not be affected. In the event the briefing schedule were allowed, Staff requests permission to prepare and complete a Commissioner's Decision and Order establishing units and releasing royalties for the four units not affected by Buck Mountain's appeal.
For the reasons more fully stated below, Buck Mountain's request to file a brief in support of its appeal is granted. Staff has made two requests, 1) an opportunity to submit a reply brief; and 2) to separate the Fratarcangelo unit from the remaining units and allow the Commissioner's Order to be executed for 4 units that have not been challenged. Both requests are granted.
Buck Mountain asserts that the ALJ misapplied the time requirement for appeals under Part 624. I disagree. Section 624.6(e) provides for 5 days to file an appeal. In the event that a party is seeking leave to appeal, and such a request is granted, the appellant then has 5 additional days to submit the appeal. In this circumstance, the ALJ acknowledged the right to appeal and directed that all appeals be filed within 5 days. Part 624 does not allow for an additional 5 days after the filing of the appeal to submit a brief. Despite the misreading of the regulations by Buck Mountain, I am granting its request for an additional 2 weeks to submit a legal brief in support of its appeal. I am also granting Staff's request for an opportunity to respond to the brief and direct that Staff submit its reply brief, if any, within 2 weeks of the filing of Buck Mountain's brief.
No participant filed an appeal of the ALJ's Ruling, except Buck Mountain. Buck Mountain's appeal concerns the Fratarcangelo unit, and not the other units comprising the proposed project. In view of the dispute limited to the unit in question and that the remainder of the project is not in dispute, it is appropriate to proceed with a Decision and Order on these undisputed units and address the Fratarcangelo unit after considering the brief by Buck Mountain and Staff's response thereon.
Buck Mountain's request for 2 weeks to file a brief in support of its appeal is granted. The brief is due 10 business days from the date of this Interim Decision. Staff's request for an opportunity to reply to the brief is granted and Staff shall file its reply brief in 20 business days from the date of this Interim Decision.
Staff is directed to submit for my review a Decision and Order that encompasses the terms of the aforementioned Stipulation, excluding the Fratarcangelo unit.
For the New York State Department
of Environmental Conservation
By: Erin M. Crotty, Commissioner
Albany, New York
June 5, 2001