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NY State Health Department Report Says Fracking Could Be Done Safely

Thursday, January 03, 2013

A document from Governor Cuomo’s Administration assessing the health impacts of hydro fracking, written in early 2012, says the gas drilling process is likely safe if proper precautions are taken by the governor’s environmental agency.

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WNYC News

Cuomo: State Set to Miss Thursday’s Fracking Deadline

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The governor is not optimistic that the state’s environmental agency will meet a key deadline on a controversial natural gas drilling practice. The department should know by Thursday whether it will again miss the deadline, delaying approval of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in New York.  

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WNYC News

Cuomo's Environmental Agency Delays Fracking Decision Again

Friday, September 21, 2012

After rejecting calls for an independent health analysis of hydraulic-fracturing, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said he’ll conduct an internal health review instead.

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The Empire

DEC Commish Marten's remarks on hydrofracking comment period closing

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Below is the full letter from DEC Commissioner Joe Martens on the end of the comment period on the state's draft hydrofracking regulations.

As others have pointed out, the last two paragraphs could signal a move by Martens to allay concerns about the speed at which the department was moving. I've highlighted the lines some are reading as good signs for opponents of the drilling process:

There has been an unprecedented response to this issue with tens of thousands of comments submitted. All comments are being carefully considered as we develop the final rules and conditions for high-volume hydraulic fracturing. In addition, the final documents will include responses to the comments in responsiveness summaries.

DEC has carefully studied this issue for nearly four years and we continue to study each and every issue associated with this activity. DEC’s number one priority is to ensure conditions for high-volume hydraulic fracturing fully protect public health and the environment. If high-volume hydraulic fracturing moves forward in New York, it will move forward with the strictest standards in the nation to ensure New York’s drinking water and other natural resources are thoroughly protected.

Public input is an important part of establishing responsible conditions for high-volume hydraulic fracturing as well as determining whether it can be done safely. Many significant improvements were made to the 2009 draft based on comments DEC received. We expect additional improvements will be made to the 2011 draft based on the comments submitted during this comment period.

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The Empire

Thousands of last-minute fracking comments delivered to DEC

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

By the Innovation Trail's Marie Cusick

As of Monday, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had received a record-breaking 20,800 public comments on the latest draft of its review of hydrofracking.

But by Tuesday, the agency had its hands full with thousands of more comments arriving at the 11th hour.

The deadline for submitting a public comment to the DEC about hydrofracking is Wednesday, January 11th.

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The Empire

DEC sees 'unprecedented' turnout at NYC hydrofracking hearing

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The state's environmental agency says approximately 6,000 people attended two hearings on hydrofracking yesterday. The meetings, held at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in Lower Manhattan, also produced more than 1,250 comments entered into the public record, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The turnout of 6,000 people at the hearings demonstrates how strongly New Yorkers feel about this important issue,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a statement. “Public input on the draft environment impact statement is an important and insightful part of developing responsible conditions for this activity as well as determining whether it can be safely conducted. Public comment on the 2009 draft helped DEC greatly improve its proposal which we released earlier this summer.”

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The Empire

DEC extends public comment period on fracking regulations

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The State's Department of Environmental Conservation today announced it was extending the public comment period for hydrofracking until January 11. 2012. The announcement reportedly came during the hearing being held downtown at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center on the Borough of Manhattan Community College campus.

"Many individuals and organizations requested additional time to prepare comments," DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said in an email. "We have decided to extend the comment period by 30 days to Jan. 11."

This will likely come as heartening news to fracking opponents, who have been calling for an extended hearing process. DeSantis, however, said the extended comment period wouldn't affect the time frame for a final decision on rules and regulations for the controversial natural gas drilling process, nor would the extra time mean more public hearings.

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The Empire

Hydrofracking opposition isn't unanimous among downstate pols

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will hold its final public meeting on hydraulic fracturing tomorrow in Lower Manhattan. It'll be the last chance proponents and detractors of the natural gas extraction process have to go on the record before the state agency puts out its drilling regulations.

While it's uncertain when DEC will actually get around to doing that, one thing is for sure: downstate elected officials have been some of the biggest advocates for postponing or outright banning the process in New York State.

Tomorrow's meeting will be a testament to how well the message of urgency over potential ecological disaster has been retained by New York City residents, a quarter of whom have regularly admitted to not be paying attention to the issue. But not every downstate politician is committed to the anti-fracking cause.

"I'm not convinced one way or another," Bronx Democratic State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. said over the phone earlier today. "On one hand we need fuel. We need to be sure that we become independent. That's one issue that I'm considering. On the other hand people are saying the water could become contaminated. So I'm debating."

After elaborating a bit further, the Senator sounded more like a proponent of the drilling process than not, saying his inclination was towards the independent fuel argument. "We've got to find a way to be independent," he said.

Diaz is no stranger to iconoclastic positions inside the liberal Democratic conference. But a key Senate vote on the other side of the aisle made it clear he, too, was looking for a safe way to support the practice.

"Hydrofracking, if it can be proven to be done safely, is something the state should be doing," Republican State Senator Martin Golden said when reached by phone. Golden had previously missed the big vote on extending the moratorium back in August. Since then he's indicated his support for the measure, saying that "it actually doesn't affect the city of New York" because of measures put in place to protect the New York City watershed.

On the Assembly side dissent has been few and far between. Of all the votes cast on June 6th to extend a moratorium on drilling, only members of the New York City delegation voted against the extension: Democrat Dov Hikind and Republican Lou Tobacco. Neither could be reached by publication time to see if they remained committed to giving hydrofracking a chance.

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The Empire

DEC holds first in a new round of hydrofracking public hearings

Thursday, November 17, 2011

By Innovation Trail's Zack Seward

The scene inside the former Dansville Middle School auditorium. (Zack Seward / WXXI)

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) held the first of four public hearings on hydrofracking Wednesday. More than 800 people descended on the vacant Dansville Middle School to rally both for and against the controversial natural gas drilling technique.

Anti-fracking advocates outnumbered pro-drilling voices by a roughly 80/20 split. Many pro-drilling speakers were booed by the crowd, while anti-drilling speakers earned hearty applause.

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The Empire

Hydrofracking meetings let public question drillers

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

By Innovation Trail's Marie Cusick

Representatives from the natural gas drilling industry took questions from the public about hydrofracking in Geneva, N.Y. on Tuesday night. (Marie Cusick / WMHT)

Today the New York Department of Environmental Conservation begins tohold public hearings about its rules to govern hydrofracking. But yesterday marked a different kind of forum about fracking: a public meeting hosted by the natural gas industry.

Geneva, N.Y. was the sixth stop in a series of seven public meetings called "Fuel for Thought" hosted by New York's Independent Oil and Gas Association (IOGA), a trade group representing drilling companies. About 50 people turned out to a junior high school last night, as a panel of representatives from the drilling industry took the stage for a question and answer session about hydrofracking.

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The Empire

Focus on hydrofracking harder for NYC residents ahead of public hearings

Monday, November 14, 2011

Senator Liz Krueger, right, and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, center, at the hearing last week. (Colby Hamilton / WNYC)

Last week's elections upstate elections were partially driven by the debate over hydrofracking. This week, the issue enters a new phase. As the Innovation Trail's Matt Richmond reports, the state's Department of Environmental Conservation begins its last round of public hearings that will guide its recommendations on the controversial gas extraction process.

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The Empire

The EPA puts another piece in play in the ongoing battle over hydrofracking in NY

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Hydrofracking advocates, in their request for the state to slow down its environmental review of the process, have used the Environmental Protection Agency’s own review as a reason to put on the breaks. More specifically, the EPA has been saying it will look into the overall process of hydraulic fracturing to weigh in on the procedure’s environmental impacts. Advocates are hoping the results, when they come, would make the case for slowing approval for or halting the natural gas extraction process all together in New York.

Up until now, the EPA piece was just something that could happen. But today the agency announced its time frame for reviewing the whole shebang. In a press release, EPA said the initial findings and results of the study, requested by members of Congress back in 2010, will be released to the public in 2012.

Upstate New York Democratic Congressman Maurice Hinchey, who pushed for the study, applauded the EPA’s announcement earlier today, saying, “Our country is in the middle of shale gas rush, but unbiased, scientific research into hydraulic fracturing is almost non-existent. This EPA study will provide invaluable information to the public and policy makers interested in understanding the impact of hydraulic fracturing on our water resources."

Environmental groups are hoping the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the Governor’s office are taking note.

“This gives Speaker Silver and other people who have been calling on the state to slow the rush to drill another way of saying, but wait, we've got information coming," said Katherine Nadeau, the Water & Natural Resources Program Director for Environmental Advocates for New York. “It’s not saying we should just wait until kingdom come. It’s saying we should wait until we've got the information we need to make informed decisions.

“I’m hopeful that the Department of Environmental Conservation and Governor Cuomo will take this into account when we're evaluating our proposed program [in New York].”

DEP has been under fire from advocates for what they’re calling a rushed process of review that could see fracking permits handed out as early as next year. Recently the agency’s head said there’s no timetable for approving the process in New York State. Through a spokesperson, the agency released the following statement:

DEC has been studying high-volume hydraulic fracturing and its potential impacts for more than three years and the state’s final [Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement] SGEIS will be released next year. DEC’s permits incorporate both state and federal requirements under the state and federal Clean Water Acts. New York’s proposed regulations are the strictest in the nation. However, we always welcome new information. We will review EPA’s final report when it’s issued and amend the state’s requirements if necessary.

The Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York’s executive director Brad Gill appeared to back up DEC, saying that EPA was just repeating work it and the state have already done.

“Even without having the benefit of a full review of the plan, the EPA’s approach appears to be consistent with what NY is already accomplishing with the SGEIS,” Gill said. “The EPA has studied water use in hydraulic fracturing many times and always came to the same conclusion: there have been no proven cases of groundwater contamination due to hydraulic fracturing.”

A number of elected officials have been contacted to see how they see this impacting the state’s process. Hoping to put together their reactions in a future piece.

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The Empire

Hydrofracking review on 'no firm timetable': DEC Commish Martens

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

By Karen DeWitt, New York Public Radio Capital Bureau Chief

The state’s environmental agency is putting the brakes on the process to approve hydrofracking on some private lands in New York, now that a key advisory panel will miss a November 1 deadline to issue a report.

The State’s Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens said the report from the advisory committee—made up of industry, environmental and community representatives—will not be issued next month, partly because data on costs from hydrofracking to other state agencies, like the departments of health and transportation, aren’t ready yet.

Martens said “there’s been a little bit of a change in plans” and that the panel will be meeting through January of 2012 to try to issue a report that will also contain costs to local governments , as well as state costs.

“There’s no firm timetable,” Martens said.

Martens says the data on the potential costs of hydrofracking to the state is “unlikely” to be ready in time for the governor’s budget proposal in January, and he says he “can’t predict” whether hydrofracking permits will be issued in 2012.

Commissioner Martens also said just the review of the thousands of comments that have been received during an ongoing public comment period will take months.

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The Empire

Hydrofracking deadline likely to be missed

Thursday, October 20, 2011

WNYC has this from New York Public Radio Capital Bureau Chief Karen DeWitt:

A state advisory panel on hydrofracking in New York may not meet its initial November deadline to report on potential fees to charge gas drillers and impacts of the controversial process on the state.

Rob Moore, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York and a member of the Cuomo administration's environmental department’s fracking advisory committee, said he’s been told to expect to attend meetings until the end of January, which could delay the initial November 1 timetable for the committee to report.

Moore said several other state agencies that need to provide input on how to structure potential fees for gas drillers and other impacts were not yet prepared to do so. A meeting that was planned for October 14 was cancelled.

“You have four of the five agencies involved in this that were clearly caught flat-footed,” Moore said.

Read the rest of the article here.

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The Empire

The battle over local fracking bans begins in Dryden, NY

Friday, October 14, 2011

By Matt Richmond/WSKG of Innovation Trail

Shutterstock / iznashih

There's a showdown brewing in Dryden, New York.

Back in August, the town passed a zoning ordinance that banned the practice of hydrofracking for natural gas. A month later, they were being sued by gas company Anschutz Exploration.

What happens here - who flinches, who wins - will reverberate across the rest of New York state.  And it all hinges on a simple question:

Can you, or can't you, ban drilling within your own town limits?

"Incompatible with our lifestyle"

Town officials in Dryden and across New York started preparing for gas drillingyears ago, when they began to see more and more leasing activity, says Dryden's supervisor Mary Ann Sumner.

"Somewhere in this process we realized ... that the gas industry was a heavy industrial use that is simply incompatible with our lifestyle," she says.

So Dryden attacked the issue on two fronts. First, it tried to work with the state to lessen drilling's impacts.

Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) 2303 gives the state sole power to regulate gas companies. That law, passed in the 1970s, would probably be much more contentious if it were to come to the state legislature today, says University of Albany Professor Erica Powers.

"Like many laws, that amendment to the constitution was proposed by the industry," says Powers.

Sumner says at the outset Dryden made an effort to comply with that law. They tried to collaborate with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on Anschutz Exploration’s application to drill locally.

But town officials noticed some problems with Anschutz's application - it had ignored the presence of a stream and power transmission lines - and ended up feeling like they couldn’t trust the DEC to protect them.

So Dryden applied its second tactic: it classified drilling as "heavy industry," prohibiting it under the town's zoning law. And that triggered the lawsuit that Dryden is facing today.

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The Empire

Councilman Gennaro on draft DEC fracking rules: One step closer to possible "unprecedented contamination"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

William Alatriste / NYC Council Flikr

New York City Councilman James Gennaro is out with a strongly worded statement on the draft guidelines for hydrofracking released today by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

“Today’s release of [DEC’s] draft regulations for hydraulic fracturing brings us one step closer, in my opinion as both an environmental public policymaker and a geologist, to the possible unprecedented contamination of New York City drinking water and other drinking water supplies throughout the State and the degradation of a large swath of our state through the irreversible industrialization of ‘hydrofracking'," Gennaro said in the statement.

He went on to criticize DEC, saying, "[T]he DEC...chose to ignore hard science and its obligation to protect the drinking water supply for nine million New Yorkers in favor of its zeal to advance hydraulic fracturing."

Gennaro called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to stop the environmental agency's process. Today the agency announced draft regulations for hydrofracking. A public comment period on the proposed rules will last until December 12, 2011. DEC is holding a series of meetings for public comment that will last from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for each meeting:

  • Nov. 16: Dansville Middle School Auditorium, 31 Clara Barton St., Dansville, NY 14437
  • Nov. 17: The Forum Theatre, 236 Washington Street, Binghamton, NY, 13901
  • Nov. 29: Sullivan County Community College, Seelig Theatre, 112 College Rd, Loch Sheldrake, NY 12759
  • Nov. 30: Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY, 10007

From the DEC press release:

Once the comment period is complete, DEC will review the comments on the revised draft [Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement] and proposed regulations and prepare responses to be released with the final SGEIS and final regulations. No permits for high-volume hydraulic fracturing will be issued until the SGEIS is finalized and DEC issues the required Findings Statement.

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WNYC News

State Releases Draft Regulations on Controversial Fracking

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

State environmental regulators formally issued draft regulations on Wednesday for the controversial gas drilling technique known as fracking in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale region of southern New York.

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The Empire

Focus on flood recovery raises new hydrofracking concerns for for upstate Assemblyman Cahill

Thursday, September 08, 2011

This story has been updated.

Courtesy of the Assemblyman's website.

By Karen DeWitt, WXXI Capitol Bureau Chief

The news has been dominated this week by two upstate stories that strangely have dovetailed, at least in one regard.

The additional flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Lee has only made the decision to limit the time for public comment on a hydrofracking report more problematic for critics.

Assembly Energy Committee Chair Kevin Cahill says he’s disappointed with the Department of Environmental Conservation’s decision to make the public comment period on a draft final report on hydrofracking 90 days long, an increase from 60 days but still not long enough largely because of the flooding.

Cahill says many of the key regions in the Marcellus Shale were flooded first by tropical storm Irene and now the remnants of Hurricane Lee, with several of them declared federal disaster areas. He says people there will be too busy cleaning up ruined homes and businesses to focus on attending hearings or submitting opinions on the future of natural gas drilling in New York.

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The Empire

State releases fracking report, extends comment period

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

 By Karen DeWitt, WXXI Capitol Bureau Chief

The state’s environmental agency has granted an additional 30 days for public comment on hydrofracking, to 90 days, and has agreed to four public hearings, three in the Marcellus shale region and one in New York City on its draft final report on gas drilling.

The new 90 day comment period was welcomed by environmentalists, though they say they would have liked double that amount of time.

The gas drilling industry, represented by the Independent Oil and Gas Association, does not object to the longer comment period.

“90 days seems appropriate in light of the fact that there is significant new material contained in the revised report,” said spokesman Paul Larrabee.

Larrabee says the gas drillers are still studying the report and will make reserve comments on specifics until the hearings.

The report estimates that anywhere from around 33,000 to over 47,000 jobs could be created from fracking and related services.  It also says and that increased truck traffic, noise and visually unattractive well sites could be a problem.

The report says the state should also require that drilling companies consider using green chemicals first, before using the more potentially hazardous mixtures to extract the gas.

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The Empire

Gas Panel Advises How to Pay for Fracking

Friday, August 19, 2011

By Patricia Willens, with reporting by Marie Cuskick/WHMT of The Innovation Trail

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens (Courtesy of DEC)

As New York wrestles with how to regulate gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is bringing together people from both sides of the hydrofracking debate. The new 17-member advisory panel met with the DEC for the first time yesterday. It's made up of gas industry representatives, environmentalists, and local government officials. Five more people were added to the original panel to include more local voices, including a Farm bureau rep and a New York-based gas and oil association member.

They're charged with making sure that state and local governments have enough resources to handle everything that comes along with the controversial drilling technique, from regulations and permits, to roads and infrastructure.

“There are existing revenue sources to the state and local governments from this activity. We want to assess what those are and how those compare to the needs that are likely to be required if high-volume hydraulic fracturing proceeds like we anticipate it will,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens told reporters after the closed-door meeting.

The panel will convene over the next few months, with recommendations expected by early November.

Robert Moore is the executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York and one of the panel members. He believes it will be a daunting task to make sure drilling is done right.

"The governor has said time and time again if this is done, it will be done safely. He didn't say it will be done cost effectively, he didn't say it will be done as safe as we can afford ... he said it will be done safely. That was the promise made to New Yorkers and I take the governor at his word," says Moore.

The public gets to weigh in and comment on the DEC’s next draft ofits rules that will regulate drilling. That report is due by the end of the month.

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