Will Fracking in NY Only be Done in Supportive Communities?

frack here frack nowIn an interesting development in the long fight to allow shale gas drilling in New York State, two key state senators are signaling a compromise may come in the form of, “if you want it, you can get it” with respect to fracking. That is, communities that support fracking will likely be the ones who will get it, at least at first, and maybe they will be the only ones to get it.

Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, a gas-drilling supporter, said the state may ultimately focus on regions that haven’t shown opposition to hydrofracking.

"I believe they’re going to look at areas of the state where there is Marcellus Shale, where there is potential for drilling in areas of the state that are going to be open to it," said Libous, the Senate deputy majority leader. "It just doesn’t make sense for them to do it elsewhere, and I think there are enough areas of the state that would be open to it."

"My sense is once DEC completes their process, I think that we’ll ease into this," said Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, Otsego County.

"There will be a limited number of permits. Where the best opportunity is for the most return on wells and where the local community welcomes the opportunity, I think that obviously makes sense to issue permits that meet those two criteria."*

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) seems to echo Libous’ and Seward’s sentiment:

DEC already signaled that it would allow some local involvement in the permitting process. A draft version of the agency’s hydrofracking review lets municipalities "raise a flag with DEC" if a permit application doesn’t follow its local land and zoning laws, DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis wrote in an e-mail.

"If high-volume hydraulic fracturing moves forward in New York, local governments will get advance notice of all applications and can comment on compatibility of such application with local land use laws and policies," DeSantis wrote. "DEC will consider this in its review of the permit application and can deny or condition a permit based on this information if it deems such action is appropriate based on the impacts."*

Which sure sounds to MDN like, “If a local community is against it, we won’t permit it.”

And then there are those in state government who are obstructionist and will only ever demand no drilling. Their favorite tactic? Start over. And keep delaying—for years—until they can either exhaust drilling supporters or build up enough anti-drilling support to ban it outright. To wit:

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, said she believes the DEC needs to start over in its regulatory review and take human-health impacts into account before allowing any drills in the ground. Lifton and Seward have been supporters of "home rule," sponsoring separate bills that would clarify the municipal right to ban or zone drilling.

"We have to know whether this industry is ready for primetime in New York — whether it’s safe, whether it’s going to hurt the water," Lifton said. "And I don’t believe we’re at that point."*

*Binghamton (NY) Press & Sun-Bulletin (Apr 21, 2012) – If approved, hydrofracking may go to supportive communities