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CCE IN THE NEWS

Source: Politics on the Hudson

DEC: Nevermind on hydrofracking hearing locations

BY JON CAMPBELL

Posted: September 8, 2011
Originally Published: September 7, 2011

After its website had said hearings would be held in Broome, Steuben and Sullivan counties, the state Department of Environmental Conservation quickly backed off from those locales, saying instead that hearings on the department’s hydrofracking review would be held in “counties within the Marcellus Shale region” in November.

A fourth hearing will be held in New York City, according to the department.

“No final decisions on exact public hearing locations have been made,” DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said. “The hearings will be held in counties within the Marcellus Shale region, as well as New York City. Exact dates and locations will be released in early October.”

It’s been a confusing morning when it comes to the DEC’s Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, a 1,537-page document that when finalized will guide the permitting process for high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

A new draft of the report was posted online this morning before the DEC issued a press release or made an announcement of its release.

DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens had been slated to speak to reporters on a conference call today to discuss the document, but DeSantis said Martens is now “tied up with storm-related activities” and unavailable. (Heavy rainfall has hit areas of the state today that were already socked with massive flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene last week.

Nevertheless, conservation and gas-industry groups have already started to weigh in on the newly revised draft report, which will be open to public comment until Dec. 12.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment issued a statement calling on the state to hold at least six public hearings. The group was one of many environmental groups calling for a 180-day comment period; they got 97 days.

CCE is disappointed with the limited public hearings throughout a vast Upstate New York region and is hopeful that the Cuomo Administration will add at least two additional hearings in Central New York and Western New York.

“An understaffed agency is attempting to engage in a public comment period on draft environmental impacts for a highly intensive and polluting process, while simultaneously attempting to update twenty-year old regulations,” the group’s statement read. “The goals of the Cuomo Administration are clear – to permit hydraulic fracturing by January and limit the involvement of a concerned citizenry that is not convinced of the benefits of fracking in New York.”


Brad Gill, executive director of the state Independent Oil & Gas Association, said that Martens “has demonstrated his willingness to provide opportunities for serious dialogue on this important energy and environmental matter.”

“IOGA of NY will fully review the additional elements and content of the revised SGEIS and looks forward to sharing its point of view with state officials at the upcoming hearings,” Gill said in a statement. “In addition, we know that New Yorkers are open-minded about the benefits that natural gas exploration can bring to the state; and as an industry, we remain committed to practices that have resulted in a long-term record of safety and stewardship.”