Anti-Drillers Show Their True Colors in DEC/EPA Email Fracas

Apparently the anti-drillers found comments they did not like in the back and forth email correspondence between the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). MDN reported yesterday on a story by Gannett about emails between the two agencies they acquired under the Freedom of Information Law (see this MDN story). MDN noted there are some interesting tidbits in the emails, but nothing earth-shattering. No new revelations.

But apparently the anti-drillers disagree. They found things they definitely did not like, and they’re making noise about it. Here’s a statement issued by the anti-drilling group Frack Action:

Frack Action Statement by Founder Julia Walsh

Gannett News Service’s story by Jon Campbell about the relationship between the NY DEC and EPA Region 2 brings to light a number of revelations of great concern about fracking and the DEC’s review. Chief among them is the DEC’s seeming aversion to the science and grave concerns raised by EPA Region 2.

The piece notes an email that DEC Commissioner Martens wrote to EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck, in which Martens said, “As a general matter, we do not believe that EPA region 2 should be holding NY to a different standard than epa holds other regions to.”

That statement is akin to saying, “Why can’t EPA Region 2 back off and be like other EPA regions that do such a lousy job of regulating?” We have seen clearly what that produces: environmental destruction, spills, blowouts, poisoned water, sick families, destroyed farms, precipitous property value decreases, etc. Indeed, EPA Region 2 Drinking Water and Ground Water Chief Bruce Kiselica wrote to DEC Mineral Resources Director Brad Field in August of 2010 to note that gas drillers committed 1,435 violations in 2.5 years in Pennsylvania and that Field shouldn’t “want this to be New York.”

Ironically, Scott Kurkoski of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York made a statement that they believe the track record of the gas industry across the country shows that there should be “no question in your mind that states have the best ability to regulate the industry on their own, without interference from the federal government.” Kurkoski must have missed the point about 1,435 violations in 2.5 years in Pennsylvania.

The emails between the DEC and EPA reveal an acknowledgement by EPA Region 2 and the DEC that fracking could lead to water contamination. Email exchanges show that both the EPA and the DEC have had the intention to sample the water of private water wells in areas of NY where fracking is eventually expected to occur. It is outrageous that NY citizens should not be subjected to a process that is likely or possible to poison their water. That’s a different tone than the DEC has taken publicly, where the public is told that fracking can be done safely.

Frack Action would like to highlight a statement Governor Cuomo made regarding fracking during his 2010 campaign for governor. He said that, “all watersheds are sacrosanct.” He was right then and he is right now. Our watersheds are sacrosanct, not something expendable you can gamble and risk poisoning.

The EPA/DEC correspondence further reveals a disconcerting tone and relationship that the DEC has with EPA Region 2. In addition to Martens essentially asking EPA Region 2 to back off, Martens cited “deep concerns about many of the agency’s proposed comments.” The emails following which likely went into detail about the comments were redacted from the FOIL request. What exactly was in EPA Region 2?s comments that made the DEC so concerned, given their stated commitment to looking at all of the best available science and concerns?

For an environmental review process that is supposed to be public, as well as one that holds the fate of many New Yorkers’ health, water, and jobs, there is a great deal of cause for public concern and very little transparency. As they were released, the EPA’s comments were very critical about the DEC’s review of fracking and raised significant flags about the DEC’s ability to permit fracking without there being serious public health and environmental problems.

This continues a pattern that previously prompted Peter Kiernan, who served as counsel to ex-Gov Paterson, to say on February 28, 2012 on Capitol Pressroom that the only science in the mix right now is “political science.”*

So Joe Martens (whom MDN has frequently criticized as being anti-drilling himself) tells the EPA to back off and treat New York like they do other states, and Frack Action thinks that’s just a disaster. Is it not obvious that nothing will ever satisfy those who are anti-drilling? They are unreasonable people and hold an unreasonable position on the issue of drilling.

*Frack Action (Jun 11, 2012) – Our Watersheds Are Sacrosanct