Anti-Driller Campaign Against LPG Fracking Begins in NY

MDN crystal ballIt certainly didn’t taken long for anti-drillers to start talking down LPG (waterless) fracking. Just last week, a Tioga County, NY landowner group announced they will sign a lease with eCorp to allow drilling on 135,000 acres in New York using a proprietary technology by Canadian company GASFRAC (see this MDN story). The waterless technology uses liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), a gel-like substance that replaces water in fracking. Perhaps most importantly, by using LPG fracking, eCorp can move ahead with permitting and drilling now (in New York!), ahead of the release of new fracking regulations that have been stalled in a four-year review process.

MDN predicted that with almost all stated reasons to oppose water-based fracking now removed, anti-drillers would invent new reasons to oppose LPG fracking. MDN’s prediction has already come true. An article printed in the “news” section of the Albany Times Union, which clearly is an opinion piece, says this:

Now, simple logic dictates that gelled, highly compressed propane is likely to pose explosive challenges of its own. And that’s probably so. It’s a proprietary technology owned by one Calgary-based company, GasFrac, and there is not a great deal of experience in its use. At the very least, all of this suggests a rigorous study of this new alternative is needed before proclaiming it wonderful and the way forward.

What is not clear, though, is whether this new technology may be declared exempt from the current moratorium against hydrofracking, pending the codification of new drilling rules and regulations.

Apparently, the Department of Environmental Conservation is taking the flat-out ridiculous position that, because liquefied petroleum gas is mentioned in the 1992 regulations, the use of it in horizontal fracking is dictated under those obsolete 1992 rules and regs. What’s ridiculous about that argument is this: the only mention of liquefied petroleum gas in the 1992 regs is in the context of passive underground storage tanks and storage facilities. The technology of using gelled propane under high pressure to fracture shale rock wasn’t even known about back then. It is a quantum leap across the absurd to equate passive storage of propane with its active use as a major component of fracturing.

Yet, someone or ones in DEC writing the draft environmental impact statement currently being finalized saw fit to state, "Well applications that specify and propose the use of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) as the primary carrier fluid will be reviewed and permitted pursuant to the 1992 GEIS and Findings statement." This looks clearly like an attempted end run by zealot supporters around a transparent look at any form of deep-well horizontal hydraulic fracturing, which the public has been led to believe is happening right now with a total rewrite of those 1992 regulations.

I get a strong sense from statements by attorney Chris Denton, who represents the Tioga County Landowners Association, that he has identified this loophole, and that he has been encouraged to pursue permitting. By whom is a good question.

Now, as this issue in the last few days has slapped awake a number of fracking opponents and a din has developed, the DEC has added a caveat to its comments about the propane technology. "Our review (of the permit application) may require additional information and additional State Environmental Quality Review Act analysis, including an environmental impact statement, if warranted."

"If warranted" is mind-boggling. Is the DEC politically tone deaf? It ought to be required, not warranted. Whatever advantages there may or may not be with propane technology will be utterly lost if they try to bully it through without an equally rigorous examination as hydrofracking.*

Notice the arguments being woven: (1) This technology is new, only two years old. (2) The technology is proprietary—owned by just one company, a Canadian company at that (jingoism anybody?). (3) There’s no way this technology was even thought of in 1992 when those “obsolete” rules were written by the DEC. (4) Anyone who supports fracking of any type is a zealot. (5) The DEC should be driven by politics, not science.

MDN translation of the above quote: The DEC needs to hold off on approving LPG fracking to give us anti-drillers time to figure out why we oppose it. We need a little time to gin up some fake science, and then get our fear-mongering arguments just right. What are you DEC, politically tone deaf? Don’t you know we anti-drillers don’t want this?!

Yeah, the enviro-leftists are always so open-minded, aren’t they?

*Albany Times Union (Mar 31, 2012) – Fractured fracking argument