It is clear that there needs to be a consolidation of the permit process, but at the same time, a fulfillment of statutory purposes or charges of the respective departments or divisions. Therefore, subject to the parameters set forth below, it is recommended that:
* The initial application for permit should be made to the DEQ Geological Survey under Part 615, NREPA.
* If the application is administratively complete under Part 615, NREPA 7 and a proposed well is in an area of potential sour gas, it is transferred to Air Quality Division for review for public health risks.
* If the Air Quality Division finds that H2S levels will not result in public exposures exceeding the 0.1 ppm limit we have proposed, it would approve the project subject to its technical conditions and other applicable DEQ and Health Department conditions and requirements.
* If there is a likelihood that H2S will exceed the 0.1 ppm public health exposure limit, and the proposed well or facility is in a residentially zoned or populated area, then the well will not be approved.
*If there is no feasible means for determining whether the H2S concentrations will exceed the public health limit, then drilling may proceed to completion provided that mud logs and any other data collected during drilling operations are disclosed to the AQD. If during this phase it appears there is a likelihood the well will contain concentrations of H2S which could result in exposures in excess of the public health limit, the drilling will cease and the well will be permanently plugged.
* Further, there must be assurance that the production or operation will not result in normal or continuous releases of levels that exceed the public health exposure limit of 0.1 ppm.
In this way, the regulatory framework would be unified and streamlined, but without sacrificing the charges and responsibility of each agency, or unit of government, and the public health and safety.
* All health based information should be routed to the local District Health Department for review and comment based on specific local ordinance or concerns. AQD and the DCH will then submit a recommended finding and action from an air and health viewpoint to the DEQ Geological Survey.
* An option for a notice of a public hearing to be held within 45 days. Copies of the application, and assessments by Air Quality Division, Department of Community Health, and local District Health Departments will be made available to the public at an appropriate county office at the time the notice of public hearing is published.
* After the hearing, the DEQ will make a decision based on the standards contained in all applicable laws and regulations of the agencies involved, and the factual record; the basis for any application on a permit application will be clearly stated for the public record.
* Any review will be available to any interested party, including local governments and residents within the potentially affected area as provided by law.
The suggested process will insure local notice, input and involvement. Such a unified process will substantially cure the fragmented and inadequate review and hearing process that currently exists.