A gas drilling rig belonging to Chesapeake Appalachia, location unknown.
DEC gas rules get scrutinized
Part 2 of 2
By Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY The Democrat requested comment from a variety of interested and involved parties regarding the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC’s) draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) new rules proposed to regulate gas drilling statewide.
Formal written comments from these groups are likely to be made to the DEC by the current November 30 deadline, and submission guidelines (and the draft SGEIS itself) can be found at www.dec.ny.gov/energy/58440.html.
Since Tuesday’s initial article, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability has provided a response, which is included in this followup.
As a reminder, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther has scheduled a public hearing on the matter before the NYS Assembly, set for Thursday, October 15 at 9 a.m. in Room 306 of the State Capitol in Albany.
Following is a roundup of the remarks made by other groups and individuals:
“Unless Pressure is Brought to Bear, The Just Released DEC Environmental Statement Clears the Way for Gas Drilling Without Adequate Protection and Controls,” says the headline from Catskill Mountainkeeper’s latest press release.
In particular, Sullivan County’s most visible environmental advocacy group worries that the draft SGEIS inadequately protects local and NYC watersheds, makes no provision for studying the cumulative impacts of multiple wells on multiple properties, doesn’t stipulate how wastewater treatment or any other areas requiring DEC oversight will be handled with current staff and deteriorating infrastructure, and falls short of offering enough public participation.
“While we are appreciative of the few new controls and protections the DEC report offers, overall it is dramatically inadequate in offering reasonable solutions that the public deserves,” stated Ramsay Adams, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper. “Unless elected officials, the media and especially the public speak out powerfully and quickly, the entire State of New York and our region, in particular, is going to be put at extreme and unnecessary levels of risk.”
Adams sees this as the area’s final opportunity to mitigate impacts.
“When the trucks are rolling, it will be too late to begin to understand the reality of what we’ve allowed ourselves to get into,” he said. “We have to act now. This is our last chance to do something to mitigate or stop gas drilling.”
Senator John Bonacic
The region’s representative on the NYS Senate, John Bonacic, offered the following take:
“Energy independence is key to both our national security and to reducing the high cost of energy. Exploring for new energy and efficiently using existing energy sources will help meet those goals.
“My initial reaction, however, is that the DEC is trying to strike an appropriate balance between the environment and our energy needs with these regulations. I would rather see the safe use of natural gas, extracted under the always watchful eye of the DEC, than give another excuse to companies like NYRI to claim there is a shortage of energy.”
Congressman Maurice Hinchey, whose 22nd District includes Sullivan County, has been advocating for a federal study on hydraulic fracturing and increased oversight of fracking as it pertains to drinking water supplies. In fact, he has proposed legislation to address that, called the FRAC Act.
“New York may soon see an extensive level of natural gas drilling, and it’s imperative that we take every step possible to ensure the protection of the environment from the potentially harmful practice of hydraulic fracturing,” Hinchey commented. “We cannot afford to make a mistake that could result in irreparable damage being done to our drinking water supplies and the overall environment.
“As I begin to carefully read through the draft report, I’m hopeful it will be abundantly clear that the DEC is doing everything within its power to protect our state’s residents, their drinking water supplies, and the environment as a whole,” he added
Fortuna Energy, based in upstate Horseheads, just struck a $5,500-an-acre deal with landowners in Binghamton. And in the past few weeks, the company has evidenced an intent to lease property in the Sullivan County area for future gas drilling (although it holds no land currently in the county and will not talk about its plans).
“Fortuna Energy is pleased that the DEC has completed this important step of the SGEIS review process,” noted Fortuna President James O’Driscoll. “We hope this will bring us closer to the day when an expeditious review and turnaround of Marcellus Shale horizontal drilling permits can occur in New York.
“We expect to fully participate in the upcoming public comment period by supplying detailed written comments on the draft once we have completed our analysis of the document.”
damascus citizens for sustainability
“Gas drilling is an industrial activity that will turn our beautiful upstate landscape into a toxic industrial zone,” said Joe Levine, co-founder of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, a nearby Pennsylvania group that is also active in opposing gas drilling in New York State.
“No one should consider this acceptable, but what is of primary importance is the threat to public health from contamination of our water supply. Hydraulic fracturing gas drilling is intrinsically contaminating because the process requires the injection of millions of gallons of fresh water mixed with dangerously toxic chemicals into the ground, which are able to infiltrate groundwater and aquifers.
“In the concentrated area of the NYC watershed alone, more than 9 million people depend on this single source of water.
“Add to this the yet unresolved drilling production wastewater disposal dilemma,” he remarked. “Where will all the water go? There are few treatment facilities capable of handling this toxic stuff.”
Trout Unlimited (TU), which focuses on fishing in the region, joined with others in pushing for the written comment period to be extended from 60 to 90 days.
Other than that, its leaders’ comments were cautiously complimentary.
“To date, New York State’s approach has been both cautionary and proactive,” said Elizabeth Maclin, TU’s Vice President for Eastern Conservation. “Unlike other states in the Marcellus Shale region, New York has not jumped the gun on gas drilling and has required a thorough regulatory analysis prior to allowing any gas company to drill in the state. Trout Unlimited and its New York Council commend the state for this.”
“Drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale is one of the most if not the most significant issues to impact New York’s native and wild trout fisheries in decades as well as local drinking water supplies. It is critical that it be done in a way that protects these resources for future generations of sportsmen,” said Ron Urban, TU’s New York Council Chair.
“As with any regulations, careful analysis is required to determine exactly how strong the protections will be for New York’s expansive resources,” said Maclin. “Trout Unlimited and its 7,500 New York members look forward to carefully reviewing and commenting on the state’s draft report.”
Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York
Those in favor of gas drilling tended to have little to say about the DEC’s regulations, good or bad.
“Oil and gas producers have an outstanding record of environmental and operational safety in New York. A regulatory structure that is tough but fair will allow this state to realize this tremendous economic opportunity,” said Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, a trade group.
“Natural gas is a clean, abundant and affordable fuel,” he added. “Increasing production here in New York will help improve our economy, increase tax revenues and jobs, and bring our nation closer to energy independence.”