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November 25, 2014
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Thousands of comments expected on SGEIS; parties weigh in on comment period


The proposed rules regarding gas drilling in New York State have already triggered more than 13,000 comments from the public. With the release of the final draft of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) on September 7, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is expecting thousands more in the next 90 days.

Because of the projected high volume, the DEC is only accepting comments through the department’s website (www.dec.ny.gov/energy/76838.html) and through the mail (dSGEIS Comments, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-6510). No faxed or emailed comments will be accepted.

Current plans call for the comment period to end on December 12. Some groups have said this is not enough time to study the document, which runs more than 1,000 pages, but others say the process has dragged on long enough.

The DEC has already expanded the period from 60 days to 90. State Senator John Bonacic said, in a statement, he has no objection to the comment extension. He added, “While those who are against drilling will always want more time in an effort to stop it, and those who are for drilling want to drill today, science, not politics, should drive all the DEC’s decision making on this critical issue. I believe that has been the case under Governor Andrew Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, and expect that will continue.”

Congressman Maurice Hinchey, however, said he supports calls for an even longer period. He said, “Considering the reckless way in which hydraulic fracturing has been carried out in other parts of the country, it is important that we understand all of the environmental and economic impacts that would result if drilling were to move forward in our state. A lot of hard work has gone into this new SGEIS and it has clearly changed dramatically since it was first issued.”

The Sullivan County Legislature considered a resolution that urged that the comment period be extended to 180 days. At a meeting at the government center on September 8, lawmaker Kathy LaBuda said the comment period needed to be longer so that interested parties could absorb the document.

Lawmaker Alan Sorensen moved to amend the resolution to make clear that the comment period would not be longer than 180 days. Lawmakers on the Planning and Environmental Management Committee agreed to the amendment, and passed the resolution, with Legislator Frank Armstrong voting no. The full board is expected to pass the resolution on September 15.

Meanwhile, some groups have begun to comment on the substance of the SGEIS. Catskill Mountainkeeper, for instance, said the SGEIS does not include an adequate health assessment of drilling and hydraulic fracturing. A statement on their website said, “The governor is acting like fracking is a done deal. Albany insiders tell us that fracking revenues are being put in the 2012 budget. This, and the unwillingness to extend the comment period to at least 180 days and review health impacts, makes it look like the hearing process is to satisfy appearances only.”

DEC plans to hold four public hearings during the comment period for the SGEIS in November. The meetings will be held in counties in the Marcellus Shale area, as well as New York City. Dates and locations will be announced shortly.

Some people would have drilled in 2008, sans sGEIS

The folks who call all study and comment a stalling tactic, never admitted to problems, especially substantial ones, back in 2008 when the Paterson administration called for a supplement to the 1992 GEIS.

Those drill baby drillers were wrong then, and they are wrong now. The industry has been forced to solve problems that it, and its supporters, never admitted existed in the first place.

The initial sGEIS has been substantially altered as a result of the public review and comment. This is how it should be.

Laura Legere, writing in the Scranton Times Tribune, states a PA DEP statistic that there were 65 confirmed cases of methane migration, by its own count, due to faulty casing and cement jobs, just within the first 8 months of 2011, in PA. This figure is one more than recorded in all of 2010.

Compare this to Aubrey McClendon getting up at the industry pow wow love fest in Philadelphia recently, and stating that all gas migration problems related to casing and cement failures have been solved by the industry, and it is therefore, no longer a threat to the population!

What PA DEP is referring to are immediate failures, due to shoddy workmanship, or inherently faulty geology, in the Appalachian Basin. This is a geology that is not required to be mapped prior to drilling, and there are no restrictions as to drilling within this "faulty" geology.

What is not even considered is the high failure rate of cement casing in gas and oil wells over a given 15 year period. Wait until those studies, and results, start manifesting themselves.

The NY TIMES is a pro business newspaper, and even it calls for extreme caution before permitting.

I would add a note to my NWPOA neighbors, that their company, Hess Corp, was cited by PA DEP, in the Legere article, for allowing methane migration, through faulty casing, on one of the first wells it has drilled in Wayne County (the Davidson well in Scott Township). Besides Hess, the article also lists Chesapeake, Exco, Williams, and XTO as offenders.

I thought Cabot was supposed to be the only incompetent, "bad actor"? No, this is inherent to the simple act of drilling and casing, especially in the Appalachian Basin.

Comment period is unecessary

The regulations the DEC have developed should stand as written and permits should be issued NOW! The citizens of NY voted for the people running our state. They appointed people to head our departments, like the DEC. Those departments HIRE qualified personnel to perform the duties necessary. I'm sure the Commissioner of the DEC, Joe Martens, who led the OSI for 16 yrs and is one of the most environmentally conscious people around has complete confidence in his staff, why then do we need to hear from the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker? People can send comments whenever they want, forever, there's no reason other than politics to wait for more crackpot NIMBY whining.

This is known as a stalling tactic.

Obstructionists learn it at the mothers' knees.