Streams

State Environment Chief In Hot Seat Over Fracking

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Department of Environmental Conservation Chief Joseph Martens submitted to nearly three hours of intense questioning by members of a New York State Assembly committee on an issue that has inflamed passions like few others: high volume hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as 'fracking.'

Joe Martens Defends Fracking Plans Before Assembly Committee
Department of Environmental Conservation Chief Joseph Martens submitted to nearly three hours of intense questioning by members a New York State Assembly committee on an issue that has inflamed passions like few others: high volume hydraulic fracturing, AKA fracking.
A mild-mannered former leader of a conservation group, Martens kept his cool but must have felt some discomfort, playing the part of fracking's defender. Even as he assured Assembly members his agency could force the gas industry to drill safely, Martens was repeatedly interrupted by angry  members of the public. As Martens took his leave, one yelled, "God have mercy on your soul!"
Outbursts of incivility notwithstanding, a several issues came to the fore that will likely continue to draw scrutiny during the review process:
HEALTH IMPACTS
DEC is leading the review of fracking and will be the lead agency when it comes to issuing permits, while the Department of Health has played a far less visible role. But many of the questions around fracking are connected with public health impacts, such as recent reports of barium poisoning in Pennsylvania. Martens said DOH is very much involved in the regulations DEC is writing. The agency may come under pressure in the coming weeks to show that it is preparing to meet the challenges of fracking.
ECONOMIC IMPACTS
Assembly members criticized DEC's Socio-Economic Impact Analysis (done by an outside firm), for relying industry-provided statistics, and failing to fully examine potential job losses caused by fracking - in addition to the economic benefits of gas drilling. Martens responded by saying that the report deliberately offered both high-end and low-end projections. Members did not seem impressed with his statement that it would be harder to assess likely job losses (in areas like tourism and farming) than job gains (in areas like well servicing.)
FUNDING OVERSIGHT AND PREPARING FOR THE WORST
Some of the biggest unanswered questions about DEC's fracking plans are to do with funding - both for day to day oversight, and for disaster response and remediation. A panel has been appointed to examine various options, including a severance tax and/or bonding. Martens said he expects to have recommendations in early November. He may have provided an early clue about his intentions by repeatedly mentioning Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's bonding plan, without specifically endorsing it.

A mild-mannered former leader of a conservation group, Martens kept his cool, but must have felt some discomfort, playing the part of fracking's defender. Even as he assured Assembly members his agency could force the gas industry to drill safely, Martens was repeatedly interrupted by angry members of the public. As Martens took his leave, one yelled, "God have mercy on your soul!"

Outbursts of incivility notwithstanding, several issues came to the fore that will likely continue to draw scrutiny during the review process:

Health Impacts

Many of the questions around fracking are connected with public health impacts, such as recent “such as the potential contamination of private water wells” in Pennsylvania. Martens said DOH is very much involved in the regulations DEC is writing. The agency may come under pressure in the coming weeks to show that it is preparing to meet the challenges of fracking.

Economic Impacts

Assembly members criticized DEC's Socio-Economic Impact Analysis (done by an outside firm), for relying industry-provided statistics, and failing to fully examine potential job losses caused by fracking - in addition to the economic benefits of gas drilling. Martens responded by saying that the report deliberately offered both high-end and low-end projections. Members did not seem impressed with his statement that it would be harder to assess likely job losses (in areas like tourism and farming) than job gains (in areas like well servicing.) Jeanette Barth, a former economist for the MTA, has raised a number of questions about the way the Socio-Economic Impact Analysis was conducted.

Paying for Oversight and Remediation

Some of the biggest unanswered questions about DEC's fracking plans center around funding — for day-to-day oversight and for disaster response and remediation. Martens estimates DEC will need to hire 140 new staffers just to process the early drilling applications. A panel has been appointed to examine various options, including a severance tax and/or bonding. Martens said he expects to have recommendations in early November. However, he may have provided an early clue about his intentions by repeatedly mentioning Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's bonding plan, without specifically endorsing it.

Clarification: WNYC originally stated that there were reports of links to barium poisoning in Pennsylvania. That is not entirely accurate. There are concerns about potential contamination in wells in the state.

 

 

 

Tags:

More in:

The Morning Brief

Enter your email address and we’ll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.

Comments [4]

Brandon Something from Clyde, PA

Here’s the thing about fracking. We have a contaminated well, we’re not anywhere near a landfill, or any other excuse you can fly to try and exalt the marcellus initative. We have an obscene amount of Barium and Strontium in our water, that wasn’t there prior to Atlas Energy setting up shop a few hundred yards away (Clyde, PA). Well, it’s Atlas Energy now, it was some other company a few months ago, when faced with doubt, change your name I suppose. And while the initiative likes to claim that they contain the chemical amalgam that spews forth from these fracking operations, Atlas Energy was spraying it on the ground to keep the dust down from their trucks, yes, the exact same liquid that was collected. Our well is 40 years old, used to be flawless, and now it’s dangerous, as is the ground, the air, and the fruit in our orchard.

Another delightful thing that Atlas Energy did was spew the chemical contacts of their rig, into the air. My father was down near our property line when this happened, and he was caught in the mist that came from the rig, and since then, has to keep returning to a dermatologist to get precancerous growths removed from his face.

Atlas refuses to rectify the situation by replacing the well, they want to pay my parents off and hope that they shut up and go away. We live in a township that’s fairly corrupt (probably why Atlas set up shop here), and the city water supply, is far from clean, and now we have no choice but to use the less of two evils. Before fracing, we had the option of clean water. Atlas doesn’t return calls, doesn’t pay my parents per their contract, and is killing them.

And atlas loves to run their equipment in the dead of the night. I can only imagine what takes place that they don’t want people to see, when they have no reservations about destroying livelihoods in the daylight.

Oct. 11 2011 09:55 PM
Brandon Something from Clyde, PA

Here’s the thing about fracking. We have a contaminated well, we’re not anywhere near a landfill, or any other excuse you can fly to try and exalt the marcellus initative. We have an obscene amount of Barium and Strontium in our water, that wasn’t there prior to Atlas Energy setting up shop a few hundred yards away (Clyde, PA). Well, it’s Atlas Energy now, it was some other company a few months ago, when faced with doubt, change your name I suppose. And while the initiative likes to claim that they contain the chemical amalgam that spews forth from these fracking operations, Atlas Energy was spraying it on the ground to keep the dust down from their trucks, yes, the exact same liquid that was collected. Our well is 40 years old, used to be flawless, and now it’s dangerous, as is the ground, the air, and the fruit in our orchard.

Another delightful thing that Atlas Energy did was spew the chemical contacts of their rig, into the air. My father was down near our property line when this happened, and he was caught in the mist that came from the rig, and since then, has to keep returning to a dermatologist to get precancerous growths removed from his face.

Atlas refuses to rectify the situation by replacing the well, they want to pay my parents off and hope that they shut up and go away. We live in a township that’s fairly corrupt (probably why Atlas set up shop here), and the city water supply, is far from clean, and now we have no choice but to use the less of two evils. Before fracing, we had the option of clean water. Atlas doesn’t return calls, doesn’t pay my parents per their contract, and is killing them.

And atlas loves to run their equipment in the dead of the night. I can only imagine what takes place that they don’t want people to see, when they have no reservations about destroying livelihoods in the daylight.

Oct. 11 2011 09:54 PM
Marie from New Hartford

I have lived in New Hartford, NY all my life and refuse to give in to corporate greed over health and safety. PA is having major concerns over contaminated water and no one will listen and the media refuse to cover their story. That will be our future if we allow this to happen. Join hydrorelief.org to preserve the water and air of New York State

Oct. 11 2011 03:38 PM
Roberta Jachym from Westmoreland, New York

Since the long term effects of fracking are unknown, no one can venture a guess on what they may entail. Putting poisonous chemicals into the ground under high pressure is not a natural phenomenon. Therefore suggesting that it is safe, will not destroy ground water supplies or harm the environment in any number of ways is short-sighted. The money gained will be nothing to what is lost in water, air and way of life quality.The time for searching for additional fossil fuels should end and all money and effort should be directed to sustainable and renewable sources of energy.

Oct. 08 2011 06:56 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Sponsored

Latest Newscast

 

 

Support

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public

Feeds

Supported by