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*cue music* It’s the final countdown…

July 2, 2011

…or so it appears for regulation on the high volume, slickwater hydraulic fracturing used in Marcellus Shale drilling. Today the DEC released some preliminary information on the final SGEIS (Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement) for proposed high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York.Note that Gov. Cuomo had asked that they release the new SGEIS by July 1.  Here is what has been provided so far, and it makes for interesting reading.
For those of you already pretty familiar with the dSGEIS from 2009, the executive summary of the SGEIS released today places a heavy emphasis on the differences between the dSGEIS and the proposed final version. You’ll note that they address (or at least mention in some way) many of the overarching concerns that were brought to their attention throughout the comment period. Only when we’ve read it all will we know exactly how they’ve addressed each concern.
PRI Marcellus Team members are busily reading the executive summary and are excited to dive into the 900+ page (oof) document, which is expected to be made public sometime this month and further revised in August to include more community and economic impacts. Thankfully, our colleagues and partners over at Cornell Cooperative Extension know much more about communities and socioeconomic issues than we do, and will be conducting more outreach on that.
In the meantime, stay tuned for what the new proposed drilling regulations could mean for water and the environment, and geology in New York State. As always, we’re working hard behind the scenes to ensure we can answer any questions you might have.
Also, remember that no drilling that falls under the new SGEIS regulation can take place until at least the end of the 60 day public comment period, scheduled to start August 1, 2011.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill Hecht permalink
    July 5, 2011 2:07 pm

    I really think we all are being reactive to whatever the DEC throws out to us.
    I still feel very strongly that the DEC will allow a lot of activities to move forward and that leaves us with what?
    So far in this fight the attention has been paid by the general public to “fracking” and “frac fluids”.
    Per DEC normal opus operandi they are opening the door a little which will soon become a tidal wave.
    The DEC will allow some drilling and fracking, all the while saying that they will watch this closely and make adjustments as they go along.
    Problem is they have neither the capabilities, skills, manpower, funding or even desire to do anything more than a “generic” oversight. Yes I can hear them vehemently denying these accusations but lets look at the facts and their past history.

    From my experience drilling in the 70’s and 80’s, and what I have observed, and have followed to this day, the DEC Bureau of Minerals does NOT do site specific investigations prior to the issuance of a permit.
    Do they have, maintain, and consult up to date geological maps? – No
    Do they do literature searches? – NO
    Do they consult with the local USGS office? – NO
    Does DEC construct rudimentary cross sections of a drill site before a permit is issued? -NO
    Do they consult with local water well drillers? -NO
    Will the make any effort to do any of this ? – NO
    Do they have people on the drill pads 24/7 – NO
    Do they have field inspectors with actual experience? – Not that I have seen.
    Are they on site during the run of casing and cement jobs? – Not that I have seem

    All of the above is inexcusable and lack of funding is not an excuse. The DEC has the perfect opportunity to up the permit fees or better yet their should be a fee on every producing and non producing site or lease to cover all their costs. Now DEC says its not their job to set fees and funding- that its the job of our legislators. True but they could at least advocate for such funding.

    On a separate matter that MUST legally be required in the impact statement is AESTHETICS !!!
    Now you may dismiss this as a minor concern but when drilling moves forward the public is going to be outraged at the visual impacts to our hillsides. THe numerous access roads and pipelines will be PERMANENT scars on the Souther Tier.
    AND, I believe, a tremendous opportunity to rally the troops now.
    If people can be shown through existing photographs and video simulations what their own back yards and scenic hillsides will look like they will be outraged.

    Keep up the fight on stoping fracking and the proper disposal of frack water- but in the end, don’t deny that aesthetics will be what most of the public will be left with as a heritage to all this.

    The leadership to change the sloppy oversight of DEC must come from the New York State Assembly and Senate.
    I would ask that a panel be set up to review the procedures of DEC Bureau of Minerals.
    Such a panel should include geologist, ecologist, doctors and planners from both sides of the drilling and fracking issue.
    The so called “panel” announced last week seems to lack anyone with actual hands on drilling, fracking, or geological field experience. This must be rectified.

    bill hecht

  2. Concerned Cortland County Resident permalink
    July 12, 2011 5:05 pm

    Can you help me decipher the SGEIS in layman’s terms? From what I read in the media, the DEC is protecting the drinking water of New York City at the expense of me and my family – Southern Tier residents. Can this be possible? Thank you!

    • prianditsmuseumoftheearth permalink*
      July 19, 2011 8:44 pm

      The SGEIS is a lot to digest. The PRI/CCE Marcellus Team will be releasing an online presentation that clarifies the differences between the dSGEIS and the new preliminary revised draft SGEIS later this summer. Hopefully that will answer a lot of your questions.

      The DEC has raised the permitting bar for drilling in the Delaware/ Catskill watershed, which supplies unfiltered water to New York City residents, and around Skaneateles Lake, which supplies unfiltered water to Syracuse. It is actually still possible for a drilling company to drill in these watersheds, though additional permitting and review would be required. In order for residents of NYC and Syracuse to continue use the Delaware/Catskill watershed as a source of unfiltered drinking water, they must adhere to the terms of Filtration Avoidance Agreements with the Environmental Protection Agency and the New York Department of Health. This includes stringent requirements on phosphorus, suspended sediment, microbes, and toxic compounds, including petroleum. The DEC found potential surface spills of petroleum resulting from equipment ruptures, surface impoundment failures, vandalism, fires, other improper operation, or accidents, including vehicle accidents present a risk of contaminating these watersheds beyond the levels allowed by their filtration agreements. The same can be said of suspended sediment levels, due to increased truck traffic, access road and wellpad construction, etc.

      It’s not that the risk is higher in these areas, it’s that they don’t have the same drinking water filtration systems in place to remove the contaminants before they reach the public drinking supply – this protection is in place in other municipalities in New York that do have water filtration systems for their drinking water. Moreover, if the EPA and NY Department of Health find that NYC is not meeting the requirements of its Filtration Avoidance Agreement, they would be required to build water treatment facilities that would cost the state billions of dollars.

      That is why the permitting process is harder for NYC and Syracuse watersheds.

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