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Source: Legislative Gazette

Grannis asked to extend public comment period on gas drilling


Posted: November 3, 2009
Originally Published: November 2, 2009

Last Thursday a public hearing on the draft Saupplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement to regulate natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region of New York, was held in the Assembly Parlor room 306 in the Capitol.

Assembly members and interested parties requested more time for the public to comment on the DEC’s statement.

The impact statement weighs in at more than 800 pages and is intended to govern natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region of New York state, which encompasses the Southern Tier of upstate New York and could effect the New York City watershed.

During the hearing, Pete Grannis, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, confirmed that the DEC’s allotted time for public comments would be Nov. 30th.

“I would ask that people pay attention to that,” Grannis noted. “It may change.”

Grannis said that the DEC was “looking for specific comments based on science and facts” and that they are “required to analyze the comments” they receive which will be “reflected” when considering the “next document.”

Assemblywoman Aileen M. Gunther, D-Forestburgh, stressed her concerns regarding the natural gas drilling, which involves a process called hydraulic fracturing, or hydro fracking, in order to break through rock to harvest the natural gas. The process uses a mixture of water, sand, and fracturing fluids which have some environmentalists worried about water contamination (see the main story on page 1).

“I am concerned about water quality,” Gunther said. “I am concerned about fracturing fluid.”

She requested that the public comment period be extended, as did several other Assembly members present due to several concerns which arose during the hearing regarding water quality, water withdrawal, water contamination, waste management, truck traffic, air quality.

Assemblyman Brian P. Kavanagh, D-Manhattan, joined Gunther in requesting an extension on the public comment period, citing the “horror stories” which have been associated with hydraulic fracturing in other states, as an example he spoke of flammable tap water.

Brad Gill, a director for the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, said they hope to be “good neighbors” when working in a community.

“Right now we’re just looking for the opportunity to do what we do,” Gill said.

He noted the independent operators “excellent track record” in New York, and remarked on the track records of additional companies in other states who have not complied with regulations, saying “we certainly don’t condone rogue operators” in New York.

But William Cooke, director of Government Relations for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, concurred with others. “The public comment period needs to be extended,” Cooke said. “We’re not opposed to the drilling; we’re opposed to doing it wrong,” Cooke said. “We’re opposed to doing it fast, poorly, or without adequate protection for the environment.The industry should pay the costs, the real costs,” he said.

Cooke also spoke about the New York City watershed noting that “New York City has the right, under current law, to prohibit drilling in the watershed.”

Also last Thursday, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, called for an extended public comment period to 90 days.

“The Marcellus Shale represents a tremendous economic opportunity for New York, and I commend DEC for recognizing the importance of harvesting and producing new sources of energy to address the growing need for energy throughout the state,” Gillibrand said in a released statement. “However our quest for new sources of energy and potential economic growth should not come at the expense of good, clean air and safe drinking water for all New Yorkers.”

With the current deadline for DEC’s public comment period approaching on Nov. 30, meetings are in place for Broome County, Sullivan County, New York City, and the Elmira/Corning region.

They are scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 28 in Loch Sheldrake, Nov. 10 in New York City and on Nov 12 in Chenango Bridge, although a date has not yet been set for the meeting in Elmira/Corning area.

The DEC is accepting online submissions, e-mails, and letters during the public comment period.

The DEC’s dSGEIS can be found on the department’s Web site at: http://www.dec.ny.gov