Leaked NY Dept of Transportation Analysis Says Potential Impacts from Marcellus Drilling on State and Local Roads are “Ominous”

A leaked internal document from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) expresses concern that the state is not ready for a dramatic increase in heavy truck traffic that will occur when Marcellus Shale drilling begins in the state. The document, titled “DRAFT Discussion Paper: Transportation Impacts of Potential Marcellus Shale Gas Development,” was leaked to the anti-drilling organization Chenango, Delaware and Otsego Gas Drilling Opposition Group. The group’s spokesman, Mike Bernhard, declines to say how the group obtained the document. As the document is now being circulated by media sources, MDN is embedding a full copy below.

This strong language in the opening Executive Summary of the Discussion Paper:

The potential transportation impacts are ominous. Assuming current gas drilling technology and a lower level of development than will be experienced in Pennsylvania the Marcellus region will see a peak year increase of up to 1.5-million heavy truck trips, and induced development may increase peak hour trips by 36,000 trips/hour. While this new traffic will be distributed around the Marcellus region this Discussion Paper suggests that it will be necessary to reconstruct hundreds of miles of roads and scores of bridges and undertake safety and operational improvements in many areas.

The annual costs to undertake these transportation projects are estimated to range from $90 to $156  million for State roads and from $121-$222 million for local roads. There is no mechanism in place allowing State and local governments to absorb these additional transportation costs without major impacts to other programs and other municipalities in the State.

This Discussion Paper also concludes that the New York State Department of Transportation and local governments currently lack the authority and resources necessary to mitigate such problems. And, that if the State is to prepare for and resolve these problems it is time to establish a frank and open dialogue among the many parties involved.

The document is dated  June 22, 2011, and it references the 2009 draft version of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS). The newest version of the SGEIS was issued just this month.

When asked about the leaked document, NYSDOT and the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) are backpedalling:

State officials were quick to dismiss the leaked document’s relevance, pointing to the release of a revised draft of the SGEIS earlier this month.

"This is an obsolete document that was based on guidelines included in the previous SGEIS, not the current one," DOT spokesman William Reynolds said.

"The DOT report is based on the old SGEIS and does not reflect the significant restrictions on drilling contained in the new proposal," DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said.

The final draft SGEIS will incorporate a section on community impacts — including impacts associated with transportation — that will be included with the final draft released in late summer, DeSantis said. That final draft will include mitigation measures associated with road use.

"We will be working with DOT and our other agency partners as we move forward with the process," DeSantis said.*

MDN’s take:

  1. If NYSDOT knew that new draft drilling regulations were about to be released by the DEC, why circulate this document, even internally? Why not wait to see what the new regs call for with regard to road use?
  2. It is important that the SGEIS “gets it right” when it comes to road use. Pennsylvania can be a lesson learned for New York. Road damage will happen—New York needs to be ready for it, and drillers need to be ready to fix roadways that their trucks damage in the process of getting the gas. It’s a cost of business and they should bear it.
  3. The person at NYSDOT who leaked the document (in an effort to delay drilling or to try and engender more opposition to drilling) should be fired.

*Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin (Jul 27, 2011) – Document estimates fracking’s toll on N.Y. roads