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Letter to DEC on SGEIS

December 29, 2011

I write again about the dSGEIS document you’re using to shape how high volume hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) for natural gas proceeds in our state.

You continue requiring county health departments to play a first-responder role on water quality concerns.

Two years ago, I publicly addressed the agency on this, stating roles and responsibilities needed to be clearly defined and agreed to. So I recently called a county health department to ask if they were aware of the role you’re requiring them to play, and confident in their ability to play it. Are they adequately equipped to distinguish all non-hydrofracking-related contamination sources from hydrofracking-related ones as you’re requiring them to do? The answers I received ranged from an emphatic “no” to sketchy at best.

Also, I couldn’t find anything in the document conveying separation of authority at the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) among people responsible for revenue generation and regulatory oversight.

So I called the agency’s Division of Minerals Resources for clarification. I was told they didn’t know; they’d research the matter and get back to me.

They never did.

Now, we know the results of conflicts arising from housing these functions in the same shop can never be good—we’ve seen that movie play out before at the federal level with BP’s disaster in the Gulf last year.

Finally, the socioeconomics section contained many pages of quantitative projections all dealing with the benefits from hydrofracking gas development. But I couldn’t find a single line of any such estimate within the 251 page report dealing with costs even though, for example, Region B, which contains Sullivan County (my county) is projected to experience a population increase in peak development years of about 20,000 people. How will this affect our schools, infrastructure and ability to provide services? Several lines of narrative did suggest these things might be adversely affected, and I’m wondering who will pay for them if the are.

A socioeconomic analysis that doesn’t adequately size costs is difficult to take seriously.

Dave Colavito
Rock Hill, NY