Large Turnout for DRBC Hearing in Deposit, NY – Last Minute Surprise from DEC Head Joe Martens

The Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin (PSB) reports about 300 people attended last evening’s Delaware River Basin Commission hearing in Deposit (Broome County), NY to consider an application from XTO Energy (now owned by ExxonMobil) to withdraw 250,000 gallons of water per day from the Oquaga Creek in the Town of Sanford to support Marcellus Shale drilling activities in New York, when and if drilling begins. The PSB said, “While both sides enjoyed healthy representation on Wednesday, the majority of the speakers spoke against the withdrawal.”

XTO’s application is the first in New York State, and only the second application in the overall DRBC region. The first application, which was approved in July 2010, was from Stone Energy for water withdrawals in Wayne County, PA.

The big surprise was an announcement from the DRBC commissioners just before the meeting started that New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner, Joe Martens, had sent a letter to the DRBC which said in part:

“New York requests that all Delaware River Basin Commission water withdrawal applications within New York that are associated with high volume hydraulic fracturing be postponed until completion of the New York environmental review process.”*

Of course Mr. Martens didn’t mention that his boss, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has just told Martens to essentially stop dragging his feet and get the draft drilling guidelines completed by July 1—a mere month from now. But after the draft is done, there will be a new public comment period etc etc which may continue to drag things out for a while. Still, Mr. Marten’s request is superfluous because XTO would not be able to start withdrawing any water until it has received drilling permits from both the DEC (Martens’ own agency) and from the DRBC, neither of which will happen any time soon.

When will the DRBC make a decision on the water withdrawal application?

DRBC spokesman Clarke Rupert said a transcript of the four-hour hearing and over 9,000 written comments will be reviewed before a decision is reached on whether to approve the application. There is no timeline on the process.*

*Press & Sun-Bulletin (Jun 2, 2011) -  Oquaga Creek water withdrawal request draws flood of responses