EPA’s Judith Enck Critiques NY Fracking Regulations

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a 26-page critique of New York’s draft hydraulic fracturing regulations, known as the SGEIS, three hours before the filing deadline on Wednesday (a copy of the letter is embedded below). This is the same EPA that just started a multi-year study of fracking that’s not due to be completed until 2014. Funny how they can be experts on fracking now, although their plan for how to study fracking was only released two months ago and they’ve barely begun to study it (see this MDN story).

This is also the same EPA who decided there was no problem with drinking water in Dimock, then said there’s gaps in the data, decided to ship water to Dimock residents, recanted on the water shipments less than 24 hours later, and has been silent since. Yeah, that EPA.

The EPA letter to the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was submitted by Judith Enck, director of EPA’s Region 2. Enck is hardly an impartial participant. She once served as a high-ranking official in NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s administration, and after he resigned, in Gov. David Paterson’s administration, during the time the current moratorium on fracking was implemented.

A few highlights from Enck’s letter:

In a 26-page response to DEC’s proposed environmental review of hydfrofracking, EPA Regional Director Judith Enck proposed dozens of improvements ranging from giving a voice in the review to the state Public Service Commission to the establishment of larger no-drilling zones around water supplies, and tougher handling of wastewater and potentially radioactive drilling waste.

Enck even questioned whether DEC, which has been dealing with staff cuts in recent years, is ready to oversee natural gas drilling.

"It is not made clear how DEC plans to do this, given the current state of the economy," according to the EPA response.

The EPA’s response also:

Recommended that DEC study recent reports that linked hydrofracking in the United Kingdom to potentially induced earthquakes;

Told DEC that, based on test results in Pennsylvania, naturally occurring radioactive materials unearthed during drilling can be more potent than DEC was claiming;

Asserted that EPA, not the DEC, has the authority to authorize the "pre-treatment" of drilling wastewater prior to it being brought to authorized municipal wastewater treatment plants for disposal;

Urged DEC to reconsider allowing water that comes back up from hydrofracking, which contains natural salts, from being allowed to be spread on roadways during the winter for traction;

Urged that landowners, not drilling companies, pick out companies to test well water at drillers’ expense prior to drilling to "remove any concerns about the water testing results being biased."*

*Albany Times Union (Jan 12, 2012) – EPA questions fracking study

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