There’s a storm brewing you need to know about. But it’s actually more like a tempest in a teapot. There’s nothing “there” in this story, except posturing by anti-drillers. With that proviso…
The Albany Times Union reports in today’s edition (in a story posted online last night) that last year, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) sent preview drafts for a few sections of the proposed new drilling rules (called the SGEIS) to “the industry” in August, a few weeks before the official release of the latest version of the SGEIS in September. Why would the DEC “leak” it to the industry first? Conspiracy? Cozy relationship? No. The DEC shared a few select portions because state law requires the DEC to seek feedback from those who would be regulated by the new rules.
Emails between Thomas West, an Albany-based lawyer representing gas drillers, and DEC Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel Steven Russo show the department forwarded specific details of its proposed hydrofracking regulations and a stormwater release permit in mid-August, weeks before that information was released to hydrofracking opponents and the general public on Sept. 28.
Several legal experts who reviewed the scenario for the Times Union — many of whom spoke on condition of anonymity — said selective advance sharing by DEC was neither required nor prohibited by the state Administrative Procedure Act, which DEC cited as its legal justification for giving the gas industry an exclusive look at what was going to be proposed.*
The DEC emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act by the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group, an anti-drilling group. And like a spoiled child stomping his or her feet and hollering “Mommy, he told him before he told me!” the anti-drillers are attempting to inflate this nothing into something.
The real reason for the public temper tantrum by Environmental Working Group (and others)? To keep up the pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to not allow any high volume fracking in the state (low volume fracking already happens). That is, the story in the Times Union is simply political posturing and nothing more.
*Albany Times Union (Jun 27, 2012) – DEC gives edge to gas drill lobby