August 7, 2012 —
An article by Albany Times Union columnist Fred Lebrun on August 5 said that the new rules regarding hydraulic fracturing (fracking) will be made public by Labor Day, and that plans by the Cuomo administration call for a limited number of wells, just 50, in 2013.
The information in the article is similar to that of a story in The New York Times three weeks ago. Lebrun writes that during the first phase of drilling there will be no direct taxes on the drilling industry, and that contaminated water from the drilling sites will be treated as “medical waste” as opposed to “toxic waste,” which is more toxic and more expensive to handle.
Lebrun also said that the legislature would be drawn into the process. He wrote, “For fracking to go forward, the legislature will be called on for extra DEC funding and to pass a package of yet unspecified regulatory bills. This will make the legislature a full partner in the harms and risks of hydrofracking, and should make for an interesting and shifting dynamic as we go forward.”
The report says, “Top state officials are in the process of briefing selected environmental groups on a plan to be publicly released in a couple of weeks.”
At least one environmental group is not happy with what they are hearing. Environmental Working Group (EWG) Senior Counsel
Dusty Horwitt issued a statement in reaction to the report. It said, in part, “The Cuomo Administration appears to be close to taking a multi-billion-dollar gamble with New Yorkers’ drinking water, health and home values by moving ahead with shale gas drilling before Labor Day. This would be a mistake.”
Additionally, the statement said the drilling industry had access to more information about the process than the rest of the public. It said, “Documents recently obtained by EWG under a freedom of information request suggest that the Cuomo administration’s proposed lax regulation of the drilling industry is no accident. The documents show that last year, the administration shared at least some of its detailed draft rules with the industry prior to making them public. This one-sided access gave drilling companies a behind-the-scenes opportunity to weaken at least one requirement of the draft plan and raised questions about what other influence the drillers might have had. While state regulators have essentially claimed that they were required to share this information with the regulated industry, nowhere in the law does it say that regulators must share detailed regulatory proposals or specific permit language with industry—and only with industry—outside of the public’s eye.”
If the Department of Environmental Conservation does unveil the final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement before Labor Day, that might also break the impasse in the Delaware River Basin Commission regarding its new rules about fracking, because if Cuomo allows it to go forward in the state, it seems unlikely he would continue to oppose it in the Delaware River Basin. That might allow drilling to go forward in Wayne County, PA.