Pete Grannis cops to political skullduggery

The New York Times story on the DEC's recent announcement on gas drilling, posted this morning, has been beefed up with some more reporting since then. Here's DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis baldly admitting that the DEC's goal was to tread the narrow path between gas wells in New York City's drinking water and lawsuits from upstate landowners:

The conservation department’s commissioner, Pete Grannis, said that landowners’ property rights had weighed heavily in the decision not to issue a ban on drilling in the two watersheds. He said that about 70 percent of watershed property is privately owned and that a ban would have undoubtedly brought on lawsuits from owners deprived of lucrative leasing deals with gas companies.

“At the end of the day, an outright ban risks very substantial litigation,” he said.

Two groups of New Yorkers who don't often see eye to eye are now left at a loss for what to do next: landowners in the watershed who had hoped to lease their lands, and gas drilling opponents outside the watershed who have been counting on New York City's support to keep the landmen at bay.

Anti-drilling advocate Liz Bucar writes us in an email:

"It feels like a nail in the coffin for the rest of us."

We also got a forwarded email from Deborah Goldberg of Earthjustice:

"We’re calling on the Governor and DEC to make sure that all New Yorkers are kept safe. The DEC needs to adopt transparent, consistently applied, state-of-the-art, enforceable regulations – instead of proposing to meet with industry behind-the-scenes to negotiate permit conditions. Until those regulations are in place, there should be no drilling in the Marcellus Shale anywhere in the State."

Sullivan County resident Bruce Ferguson posted to a forum for Marcellus anti-drilling activists:

"This is a transparent attempt to get eight million New Yorkers to lose interest in the fact their drinking water is threatened by hydraulic fracturing.

The DEC has been crafty; it didn't ban fracking in the watershed, that would have raised obvious questions about the safety of the process.  Instead, they created a regulatory black hole that will prevent fracking without prohibiting it.   This is akin to a corporation settling a lawsuit by paying hundreds of millions of dollars in fines without admitting guilt.

Linking the regulatory exception to unfiltered water supplies is another a clever ploy.  It permits a benign interpretation:  'Access roads and well pads could create muddy run off that would require filtration, and we didn't want that to happen.'  The real danger to drinking water supplies, toxic contamination, is neatly avoided."