Gas Drilling’s Death by 1,000 Stalls in NY

An opinion column in today’s New York Post aptly nails the situation on gas drilling in New York State. In fact, the title says it all, “Fracking in NY: death by 1,000 stalls?” MDN has been a Johnny-one-note on this topic with our assertion that Joe Martens, Commissioner of the NY Department of Environmental Conservation and the man whose job it is to get drilling going in the state, is intentionally delaying drilling because he doesn’t want to see it happen. The Post agrees.

The Post column says, in part:

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is on course to kill any hope of a New York natural-gas boom with the death of 1,000 stalls.

The DEC is taking too long, and paying too much heed to disingenuous critics, in issuing rules to allow the key process of “fracking”…

Last week, the DEC announced it’s extending for another 30 days the public-comment period on its proposed fracking rules. This, after already stretching the period from 60 days to 90 days — and after many hearings have turned out more like Occupy Wall Street protests than a sober assessment of safe and effective drilling rules.

The DEC claims it wants to give everyone a chance to voice their concerns about the drilling rules. But offering so-called experts like actor Mark Ruffalo the platform to demand that New York abandon natural-gas drilling in favor of solar power is a waste of time.

[The DEC’s] proposed regulations — including severe limits on where fracking can be done and a complex and drawn-out permitting process — seem designed to discourage investment by major oil and gas players.

Geologist John Conrad says the rules would make New York uncompetitive in gas drilling. “The DEC claims that … only 15 percent of the Marcellus Shale play [would be] inaccessible to drilling,” he explains, “but I’ve looked at areas currently leased by oil and gas operators, and as much as 100 percent of a tract can fall under those restrictions.”

Meanwhile, the DEC wants operators to apply to the state Department of Transportation for “road use” around any drill site — rather than just working with local government. And they might have to do that after getting a drilling permit. More time, more red tape and more risk that you won’t get all the necessary permits after months of time and money for lawyers.

Cathy Ann Kenny of the New York State Petroleum Council, a trade group, warns that, with the rules as written, “I can’t anticipate that [gas drilling] would happen to the extent that it is happening in Pennsylvania because it wouldn’t be as profitable.” She says companies have cut back or closed their New York operations.*

Congratulations Joe. It looks like you’re getting your wish after all. Even if the new rules as written were released tomorrow, it’s doubtful any meaningful drilling would take place in New York State anyway. Death by a thousand cuts, or in this case, a thousand stalls.

*New York Post (Dec 5, 2011) – Fracking in NY: death by 1,000 stalls?