Friday, October 2, 2009

Responses to NY DEC's Long Awaited Environmental Impact Statement Begin to Emerge

"The state’s mitigation proposals are half measures," Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said in a news release Wednesday night. "I believe the choice is simple: we either correct this error and ban drilling now, or soon enough the officials entrusted with protecting our environment will be asked to explain why they were asleep at the switch when it mattered most."

Provisions highlighted in the news release would make New York State’s environmental protections more stringent than those in many other drilling areas, but a quick review of the document indicates those provisions may be accompanied by conditions and stipulations, making it unclear exactly where the rules would apply and how they would be implemented.

To read the NY Dept. of Conservation's summary of the 809 page document, posted on Splashdown! on Sept. 30th, CLICK HERE.

New York Gov. David Paterson ordered the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement in July 2008, one day after a ProPublica investigation raised questions about the state’s preparedness to handle a rush of drilling in the Marcellus Shale. The governor has since made clear that drilling will eventually play a prominent role in the state’s economy.

In 2008, ProPublica also reported that New York was unprepared to treat the wastewater itself – the DEC said drillers would have to ship it to neighboring Pennsylvania. But ProPublica found that Pennsylvania’s specialized treatment plants don’t have the capacity for it either.

To read the ProPublica article, CLICK HERE.

According to the New York State SGEIS: The only regulatory role DEC has over disposal of flowback water at out-of-state municipal or industrial treatment plants is that transport of these fluids, which are considered industrial waste, must be by a licensed Part 364 Transporter. For informational purposes, Table 5.14 lists out-of-state plants that have been proposed for disposition of flowback water recovered in New York.

Table 5-14
Out-of-state treatment plants proposed for disposition of NY flowback water:

Treatment Facility - Location - County

Advanced Waste Services - New Castle, PA Lawrence

Eureka Resources - Williamsport, PA Lycoming

Lehigh County Authority Pretreatment Plant - Fogelsville, PA Lehigh

Liquid Assets Disposal - Wheeling, WV Ohio

Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport - McKeesport, PA Allegheny

PA Brine Treatment, Inc. - Franklin, PA Venango

Sunbury Generation - Shamokin Dam, PA Snyder

Tri-County Waste Water Management - Waynesburg, PA Greene

Tunnelton Liquids Co. - Saltsburg, PA Indiana

Valley Joint Sewer Authority - Athens, PA Bradford

Waste Treatment Corporation - Washington, PA Washington
DRAFT SGEIS 9/30/2009, Page 5-123

Meanwhile, according to a report in the Ithaca Journal: With only 17 inspectors to enforce the state's newly proposed regulations overseeing the natural gas industry, it will be a while before the gas rush moving up the Appalachian basin takes hold in the Southern Tier.
"They do not have the manpower to do this. That's no secret," said Lindsay Wickham, a field adviser for the New York State Farm Bureau, an agency that advocates landowners' interests.
It does not address staffing necessary to enforce the regulations, which propose on-site inspection of critical operations, such as cementing well bores to protect aquifers from contamination.

"The report calls for a lot more hands-on inspection, and we are going to have to find ways to fund additional staff," said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell.
Once regulations are finalized, between 2,000 and 4,000 wells could be produced in Broome County in the coming decades, according to an economic report commissioned by the Broome County Legislature.

The rate at which permits are issued is a function of the staffing available to process them, DEC officials said. The smaller the staff, the slower the process.

It's clear to anyone doing the math -- 2,000 or more potential wells in Broome County alone, 47 applications already pending in the Southern Tier, only 17 inspectors -- conditions are ripe for a substantial backlog ... or for overworked regulators to cut corners.

"DEC has no intention of rubber stamping paperwork or permits just to speed things up, regardless of the number of applications that may come in," said Yancey Roy, a spokesman for the department. "The Department will work with existing staff to do this right."
Deborah Goldberg, an attorney for Earth Justice, said she is skeptical DEC staff facing a backlog of permits will sufficiently evaluate and track each one.

"Enforcement is absolutely key," she said. "Without it, the law is not worth the paper it is written on."

Advocates point to Pennsylvania, where Cabot Oil & Gas in Susquehanna County has been keeping regulators busy.
New York officials say they learned a lot watching problems unfold to the south, and that is reflected in their proposed regulations.To back them up, both opponents and critics agree, it's going to take more than 17 inspectors.

To read the complete Ithaca Journal article, by Tom Wilber, CLICK HERE.


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