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Riverkeeper Responds to NY Release of Revised Fracking Environmental Impact Statement


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For Immediate Release

Contact: Tina Posterli, 914-478-4501 x239; [email protected]

DEC announces comment period and hearings, but fails to commit to regulations before permitting begins

Ossining, NY – September 8, 2011 – Yesterday, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued the full version of its 1,000+ page revised draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS), the document that it has prepared to guide shale gas extraction by means of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in New York. Still missing are comprehensive discussions of the cumulative environmental and public health impacts likely to result if DEC allows fracking to move forward in New York.

In addition, DEC has still not committed to wait to begin permitting until regulations have been finalized. By issuing draft regulations before the environmental review process is complete, DEC is depriving New Yorkers of the opportunity for their comments to be considered in the development of those draft regulations.

“DEC admitted in August that they don’t have the staff they need to issue permits. DEC states in their press release that proposed mitigation measures and the regulations that would make them law should move forward together. Yet, they still intend to process permit applications before they have new staff in place or regulations done? What are they thinking?” states Paul Gallay, President and Hudson Riverkeeper.

“Chief among our concerns is that DEC continues to rush the process, seriously limiting the public’s opportunity to express their legitimate concerns and have those concerns actually influence DEC’s decision-making regarding allowing hydrofracking to go forward in New York,” according to Kate Hudson, Watershed Program Director.

Key weaknesses we have identified in our initial review include:

  • Regulations Must be in Place Before Permits: DEC indicated in its press release for the SGEIS that it will issue draft regulations governing shale gas extraction and fracking sometime in October. A core principle of the state’s environmental review process is that DEC finalizes impact statements such as the SGEIS after incorporating public input, and prior to drafting regulations so that the impact statement findings inform the regulatory process. DEC should process permit applications only after it promulgates detailed regulations that adequately protect against the environmental, public health and safety risks associated with horizontal drilling and fracking.
  • DEC Should Not Issue Permits Until it Has the Resources in Place: DEC admitted in an August 16, 2011 report to the State Advisory Panel on High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing that it does not currently have adequate staff to issue or enforce permits for shale gas extraction. The SGEIS does not address how DEC will have adequate regulatory and enforcement resources in place to be able to begin permitting this activity as early as next spring 2012. DEC should not begin processing fracking permit applications until those resources have been made available through regulatory or legislative action.
  • NYC and Syracuse Water Supply Infrastructure Needs Protection: Much of NYC’s water supply infrastructure falls outside of the NYC Watershed. Despite the well-known susceptibility of this aging and already leaking infrastructure, DEC has proposed virtually no protection. It is crucial that DEC prohibit drilling anywhere near all infrastructure that falls outside watershed limits to adequately protect the drinking water supply of the citizens of both these cities.

The public comment period for the revised draft SGEIS officially began with the report release yesterday and will conclude December 12, 2011 – 96 days later. This is an improvement over the original 60-day period for public review proposed by DEC, which Riverkeeper, its members, and its environmental colleagues, pushed DEC to extend.

However, DEC now expects the public to, at the same time, review and comment on draft regulations that DEC will not release until sometime in October. Riverkeeper believes that this rush to complete the regulatory review process to pave the way for permitting as soon as possible is unfair and unreasonable for the public and undercuts their ability to meaningfully comment on both the SGEIS and the regulations. DEC should offer a comment period for the SGEIS first and then issue draft regulations giving those their own comment period and hearings.

Riverkeeper will work over the next few months to develop a comprehensive set of formal comments on the SGEIS, while advocating DEC to address the gaps identified above. It remains Riverkeeper’s position that DEC should not move forward with permitting fracking unless and until it can demonstrate that the health and environment of New Yorkers will be protected.

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