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Source: Buffalo Business First

Environmentalists want more input on hydrofracking

BY DAVID BERTOLA

Posted: September 8, 2011
Originally Published: September 8, 2011

After a preliminary review of more than 1,000 pages of the revised draft impact statement, environmental groups are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to schedule additional public hearings in communities likely to experience natural gas exploration.

The Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement is a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation document that guides gas drilling by means of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” and horizontal drilling in deep shale. The groups also renewed their call to the governor to assess fracking’s public health and community impacts before the state permits drilling. They say that while the revised fracking document includes new assessments of traffic, noise and visual impacts, it does not include estimates of related health impacts due to increased industrial activity.

“It is clear that the Cuomo Administration is focused on permitting fracking in New York by January and limiting the involvement of concerned citizens who are not convinced that fracking is right for New York,” said Sarah Eckel, legislative and policy director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Hydrofracking will dramatically change New York communities and have lasting impacts on our natural resources. Why is Governor Cuomo intent on fast-tracking a process the DEC is not prepared to regulate?”


To frack a gas well, millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals are pumped deep underground at high pressure to fracture rock and allows gas to escape. The process has been used for decades as a means to drill for natural gas.

The organizations object to the the state not proposing to ban any chemicals used in fracking fluid. They claim state leaders failed to include an impact analysis of public health. The groups cite DEC’s historically low staff levels as reason to believe the agency would be forced to cut corners with reviews or fast-track permits despite documented risks of industrial drilling. They plan to make additional comments in the coming weeks after they’ve thoroughly reviewed the document.

The organizations, all partners in the New York Water Rangers Campaign, are calling on Gov. Cuomo and the DEC to include at least two additional public hearings in Upstate New York.

“How Governor Cuomo chooses to safeguard New York’s communities and waters from fracking will determine his environmental legacy,” said Katherine Nadeau, water and natural resources program director for Environmental Advocates of New York. “Does he want that legacy to include putting the state at risk by allowing toxic chemicals to be pumped through New York’s waters or allowing fracking to proceed without so much as an evaluation of potential health impacts? I hope not.”

Earlier this month, 76 organizations released a letter to Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens calling for a 180-day comment period along with public hearings in at least the same four areas where the DEC held hearings on the 2009 draft fracking document: Binghamton, Sullivan County, New York City and Delaware County. The letter called on state leaders to hold hearings in as many of the communities likely to be affected by fracking in both Marcellus and Utica shale formations as possible. Many New Yorkers in these areas did not have the opportunity to attend a public hearing in 2009.

Brad Gill, executive director of Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, said the energy industry believes the previously announced 60-day comment period would be sufficient, but extending that to 90 days will ensure a more detailed review and evaluation of the document.

“Commissioner Martens has demonstrated his willingness to provide opportunities for serious dialogue on this important energy and environmental matter,” Gill said. “Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York will fully review the additional elements and content of the revised impact statement, and looks forward to sharing its point of view with state officials at the upcoming hearings.”

Gill is confident hat New Yorkers are open-minded about the benefits that natural gas exploration can bring to the state.

“And as an industry,” he added, “we remain committed to practices that have resulted in a long-term record of safety and environmental stewardship.”