NY Drilling Delayed Again: Public Comment Period on New Regulations Delayed by DEC’s Joe Martens for Additional Month, Maybe Longer

detourOnce again New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens has delayed the start of Marcellus gas drilling—this time by at least an additional 30 days, maybe longer. The “nearly” final draft drilling regulations, called the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS), were released on July 8 (originally supposed to be released July 1 as ordered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo). At that time, Mr. Martens said there would be a 60-day public comment period that would begin in August. Then the DEC would review those comments, tweak the regulations, and issue the final regulations sometime late this year.

The 60-day public comment period will now not begin until “late summer,” which in DEC-speak means September. Why?

The DEC had commissioned a study with a consulting firm to look at the socioeconomic effects of gas drilling—that is, how drilling will affect light levels, noise levels, truck traffic, and more. What is often referred to as concerns about “industrializing” a community. The report, just delivered to the DEC, includes recommendations for how to lessen the impact of drilling on communities. The DEC wants to figure out how to include the results of the report in a new “final” draft SGEIS. (If you go back to 2009, this will be the third “final” draft SGEIS.)

The public will likely have to wait until September to get its say on the state’s review of the controversial hydraulic fracturing process for natural gas drilling.

The Department of Environmental Conservation received a report late last month from a Buffalo-based consulting company that proposes ways to limit the effects on communities and municipalities from an anticipated spike in activity by the natural gas industry.

The department now is considering how to plug the consultant’s recommendations into its own proposed regulations, spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said Monday. After that, an updated draft of DEC proposals will be made public and opened up to a 60-day comment period by "late summer," likely beginning in September, she said.

The comment period was originally expected to start this month.

"What we’ve been saying all along is that there is no firm time frame for this," DeSantis said. "We’re taking the time to make sure this is done right."

Ecology and Environment Inc. was hired by the DEC earlier this year to highlight both the positive and negative socioeconomic effects of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, which sit beneath the Southern Tier and other portions of New York.

The company’s report, which will be made public when the comment period opens, was also set to include an analysis of visual and noise impacts from the industry, as well as the effects of increased truck traffic on the state’s infrastructure.*

Those opposed to drilling are calling on the DEC to conduct public hearings so they can engage in kabuki theater. Those who support drilling are encouraging the DEC to allow only written public comments, which they argue are a better way to convey serious arguments for and against drilling, and avoid the drama that accompanies public hearings on this topic. Given Mr. Martens background and behavior thus far (foot-dragging delays, packing a special advisory committee with antis, etc.), MDN’s money is on public hearings. Should be an interesting late summer fall.

*Elmira Star-Gazette (Aug 1, 2011) – Hydrofracking comment period to start in ‘late summer,’ DEC says

  • Anonymous

    Subtly different emphasis from the Albany paper:  ‘Fracking’ comment period firm…  DEC commissioner says 60 days sufficient time to review proposed rules…//www.timesunion.com/local/article/Fracking-comment-period-firm-1688718.php#ixzz1TsMt8VAU

  • Those opposed to drilled are calling on the DEC to conduct additional public hearings because they, like us, distrust large corporations who don’t regard the public’s health and safety as their first priority, ahead of the bottom line. They are observing the mistakes we’ve made in Pennsylvania and don’t want them repeated in their state. Unregulated dumping of drilling waste has, in Greene County, killed Dunkard Creek and endangered Whitely (bass fishery with TDS levels creeping to high to support a breeding population of fish), and has polluted our water source, the Mon River, with toxins that none of our water treatment plants is equipped to filter or neutralize. So, do you think they should blunder headlong into this new industry with eyes wide shut and, maybe endanger the fresh water supply for all of New York City? Sound like a plan. NY is learning from a century of our mistakes, which started with my grandparents and the unfettered greed of the coal barons, who treated them like serfs.

  • Julieann, you’re a broken record (and wrong at that). Once again, for the umpteenth time, the Dunkard Creek fish kill was proven to have no connection (that’s zero, nada, nothing) to do with gas drilling. Please at least try to be accurate with your “facts” when you comment.

    And as I point out, those who support drilling (like me) are tired of the song and dance routines put on by those who don’t. Supplying well thought- and written-out comments are sufficient. If you claim there’s pollution happening, supply your comments with your evidence in writing.

  • Anonymous

    Articles that claim that the fish kill at Dunkard Creek were PROVEN to have nothing to do drilling waste are from pro-drilling groups such as MDN.  The salty waste was traced to outflow from CONSOL Energy’s Blakesville #2 mine.  However a PhD student and prof from WVU reported that during field work they observed four days in 2010 (after the fish kill) when waste water was dumped into the CONSOL mine.  Also that waste hauler who was accused numerous incidents of illegally dumping waste water in PA, Shipman, had one of his employees identify that well as one of the dump site and Shipman hauled drilling waste.  In their report, EPA concluded that they could not identify a direct casual relationship nor discount any.  Salty discharge from Blakesville had long been a problem.  A contributing factor to the timing of 2009 fish kill was probably the exceptionally low flow in the creek into which the waste flowed.  At most you can conclude that there is reason to suspect that dumping of drilling waste into the mine could have contributed, but nothing is proven either way.

  • Anonymous

    More vile tripe from this… person:

    “…blunder headlong…” 

    If PA is blundering headlong, then it’s blundering headlong all the way to the bank!

    “Unregulated dumping of drilling waste…”

    There is no unregulated dumping of drilling waste.  There are state and
    federal regs governing disposal of all this industry’s solid and liquid waste.  Ms. Wozniak could argue these
    regs should be stronger, or more tightly enforced, and I would listen.  But she loses me when claiming
    “unregulated dumping” — because that is, in fact, a lie.

    “…maybe endanger the fresh water supply for all of New York City…”

    Clearly, Ms. Wozniak has been too busy spreading falsehoods to find the time to actually read the current draft of the NYS plan — which seeks to make the NYC watershed shale gas ban permanent (much to the dismay of the private landowners who actually own 70% of that resource).