In July, New York Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Joe Martens announced the formation of a Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel to make recommendations to the DEC on how to oversee, monitor and enforce new shale drilling regulations in the state (see this MDN story). The initial panel of 13 members was heavily tilted to anti-drillers, with a few pro-drillers thrown on to make it look good. In August, Martens appointed an additional five members (all pro-drilling) to the panel, to provide balance and give landowners a voice. Those new members include:
- Robert Williams, landowner in the Town of Windsor, member of the New York Joint Landowners Coalition
- Jeff Williams, Deputy Director and Manager of Governmental Relations, New York Farm Bureau
- Brad Gill, Executive Director, Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York
- James B. Bays, Supervisor, Town of Smyrna
- Thomas Santulli, County Executive, Chemung County
At a pro-drilling meeting last night, MDN had the pleasure of hearing Bob Williams give a brief update of his time thus far on the Advisory Panel. Among his comments:
- So far, the panel has held four meetings, although five had been scheduled by now. By the fifth meeting, panel members were supposed to have completed recommended staffing and budget recommendations for various state agencies that will deal with drilling issues directly or indirectly.
- Williams said that Joe Martens “runs a good meeting” and keeps each meeting on track and on time. They start at 1 pm and end at 4 pm promptly.
- Much of the time at each meeting is spent listening to presentations given by various agencies or groups. Williams said that there is never discussion of any kind among the panel members, and certainly no disagreements or arguments. There isn’t enough time.
- At the last meeting, Tom Santulli, panel member and County Executive from Chemung County, gave a presentation revealing that although there is no shale drilling in New York, the drilling just across the border in Pennsylvania has already had a profound economic impact on his county. There are some 1,300 people who live in Chemung County that are employed by the drilling industry in PA.
- Williams said it was during the last five minutes at the most recent meeting that Commissioner Joe Martens made the announcement that the reports from the panel would be delayed until sometime next year. There was no discussion, just an announcement by Martens. Williams said many of the panel members sat there “dumbfounded” by his announcement—the first they had heard of it themselves.