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New Revelations Raise Questions about Integrity of Fracking Review

Revelations this week about three of the consulting firms involved in New York State’s ongoing environmental review process assessing high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) raise serious questions about conflicts of interest and add to the list of fundamental flaws in the review process.

It’s come to light that Energy and Environment, Inc. (E & E), the firm hired by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to prepare the socioeconomic impact analysis in its draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS), is a member of a pro-fracking lobby group, the Independent Oil and Gas Association of NY (IOGA-NY). The association was revealed in an April 22 letter from IOGA-NY, on behalf of its members, to Governor Cuomo, touting the purported benefits of fracking and calling on the Governor to open New York to the industrial practice. IOGA-NY included E & E in its list of members.

The news that a fundamental portion of the SGEIS was prepared by a firm with ties to industry lobbyists is alarming, particularly given the pro-fracking bias evident in the socioeconomic impact analysis. Riverkeeper wrote to DEC about this in November 2011, expressing serious concerns that the analysis was too heavily balanced in favor of fracking and failed to comprehensively evaluate potential negative socioeconomic impacts. In fact only 7 pages of the 251-page report discuss potential adverse impacts. This week’s news only makes more urgent our call for DEC to restart the environmental review of fracking in New York.

In addition to E & E, two other firms involved in preparation of the SGEIS were listed as IOGA-NY members: Alpha Geoscience and URS Corporation. The impartiality of three of the consulting firms involved in preparing the SGEIS raises serious concerns about the veracity and integrity of the environmental review process. Today Riverkeeper, along with 11 other environmental and watchdog organizations, called on the state to redo the SGEIS and ensure a fair, balanced, and impartial process.

Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay summed it up best:

“In November 2011, Riverkeeper called out DEC Commissioner Joe Martens for the pro-fracking bias that pervades the state’s socioeconomic impact analysis. Nearly two years later, we learn that the firm who developed the socioeconomic impact analysis has ties with IOGA-NY and that the entire RDSGEIS is in question. We need to wipe the slate clean and start over with an honest review. Until that is done, the process is fundamentally flawed and cannot justify public trust.”