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Source: The Journal News

Natural gas advocates: Let DEC finish review of fracking


Posted: May 12, 2011
Originally Published: May 12, 2011

ALBANY — After groups opposing hydraulic fracturing swarmed Albany three times in the past two months, the natural gas industry got its day at the Capitol on Wednesday.

About 50 members of industry and pro-gas groups met with lawmakers on the Legislature’s environmental committees, urging them to let the state Department of Environmental Conservation finish its review of permit guidelines for hydrofracking, the technique in which chemical-laced water is injected deep into tight shale formations to release gas.

“The DEC is staffed by the engineers and scientists who have the expertise to navigate this issue and put in place the protections that are needed,” said John Conrad, president of Poughkeepsie-based Conrad Geoscience Corp. “So we would ask New Yorkers and the Legislature to allow the DEC to put in place procedures that are protective of the environment but also allows New York to realize the economic stimulus of Marcellus Shale development.”

The Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, a trade group representing oil and gas producers, organized Wednesday’s lobbying. The day was free of any sort of public rally, instead focusing on private meetings with officials.

Drilling in the Marcellus Shale, which sits about a mile beneath the Southern Tier and parts of the Hudson Valley, has been held off since July 2008, when the DEC launched its review.

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, who has been one of the industry’s toughest critics in the Legislature, met with gas-company representatives.

She has asked the DEC to pause its review and reopen a 30-day public-comment period on the scope of its Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, an 800-page document that will guide the hydrofracking permit process.

The DEC has said a second draft of the permitting document will be released this summer, with at least a 30-day comment period to follow.

“I told them that I want the DEC to do its work, but I want the DEC to do a more thorough job than I believe is being done right now,” Lifton said. “It’s been my position that we’re going to keep letting the DEC do its work.”

William Cooke, director of government relations for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said it is time for lawmakers to intervene.

“Anybody who understands DEC’s current staff­ing and funding levels has to admit that DEC is not in the position to adequately regulate or oversee this industry,” Cooke said.

When asked Wednesday about the industry’s frustration with the state’s moratorium, Gov. Andrew Cuomo stressed patience.

“Don’t be frustrated,” he said. “Let’s get the facts. Let’s get the report, and then we’ll make a decision.”

Conrad said the state is missing out on a needed financial windfall.
“The industry has never objected to this kind of in-depth environmental review,” Conrad said. “But I will tell you that industry is growing more frustrated and more impatient, because we feel that opportunity is lost each and every day that the DEC is unable to issue drilling permits.