The DEC's announcement that their road map for gas drilling in New York State doesn't apply to New York City's watershed caught us by surprise. (See our ongoing coverage here.) Looks like they called a bunch of beat reporters to break the story: Binghamton reporter Chris Strub was on Twitter last night wondering what DEC spokesman Yancey Roy was sitting on. Even now, with a New York Times story already live, the DEC doesn't have anything on their press-release page about the announcement.
Breaking news in the middle of a Friday is a time-honored tactic for sweeping inconvenient truths under the rug. And with Earth Day barely over, the timing of the announcement seems especially fishy. Pete Grannis, who heads the DEC, was the object of a copious gush of ink in the New York Times yesterday; you can almost hear the sound of editors across the state going, "What? We have to write about this guy again already?"
For our part, we managed to catch Ramsay Adams by surprise with the news. Here's what the executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper had to say after taking a minute to peruse the paper.
Ramsay Adams: Wow. (Pause.) It’s an attempt to take the watershed issue off the table without actually dealing with it, to fast- track drilling for the rest of us. And it’s not even protecting that watershed. It’s bad on both levels. It’s a really unfortunate turn of events, because it doesn’t address any of the fundamental problems.
Watershed Post: The DEC is basically banning drilling in the watershed without actually coming out and banning it.
RA: They’re not banning it, they're saying they're going to do a different study. It’s a way to neutralize the New York City issue without actually doing anything.
It doesn’t, in my mind, make a whole lot of sense. Negative cumulative environmental impacts [of drilling] would be relevant outside the watershed. What's so special about that piece of property that’s different from the Delaware River basin, or another place in the Catskillls? The statement that their environmental impact statement doesn’t apply to these areas is flawed. It needs to be looked at cumulatively, all of it. It needs to be done right. They need to start over.
WP: Do you think the DEC's move could be a way to get around what John Bonacic and some other local politicians are claiming, that banning drilling is a regulatory taking of property?
RA: I believe that’s a major factor. There's a lot of politics. There's’s the political pressure of NYC and the DEP, and the political pressure of the people who live here who want equal standing. So yes. I agree.
WP: It seems like sort of a dodge.
RA: That’s a good word. It’s a Friday surprise.