Anti-frackers and DEC chief weigh in against XTO water withdrawal

Yesterday's Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) hearing at Deposit High School was packed, according to the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. The topic under discussion was XTO Energy's request to withdraw water from Broome County's Oquaga Creek to use in hydraulic fracturing:

About 300 people crowded into Deposit High School's auditorium for a hearing on XTO Energy's application to withdraw up to 250,000 gallons of water per day from Oquaga Creek in the Town of Sanford ...

While both sides enjoyed healthy representation on Wednesday, the majority of the speakers spoke against the withdrawal.

"A large withdrawal operation with a staging area for trucks and industrial activity would negatively affect the best use of this creek," said Sullivan County resident Carolyn Duke.

The hearing lasted for four hours, and the DRBC also received 9,000 written comments about the application, the paper reports. New York Department of Conservation chief Joseph Martens also surprised everyone by weighing in with a letter to the DRBC that asked it in no uncertain terms to table its consideration of XTO's permit until the DEC issues its fracking regulations, now due out this July. The Press quotes from his letter:

" ... New York requests that all Delaware River Basin Commission water withdrawal applications within New York that are associated with high volume hydraulic fracturing be postponed until completion of the New York environmental review process," the letter states.

As it happens, XTO Energy's president, Jack Williams, was arguing for the right of states to regulate hydraulic fracturing in front of a federal Department of Energy panel yesterday. From the Times-Union:

From state to state, "the regulations are different, and they need to be, depending on the local circumstances," Williams told an Energy Department advisory panel considering ways to better protect the public and environment from hydraulic fracturing operations. "That's the beauty of having states playing this role. They can tailor their regulations" to those unique conditions.

There's also a move afoot in the New York State Assembly to give the DEC more oversight over water withdrawal applications like XTO's, WAMC reported yesterday:

A bill to give the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation more oversight regarding water withdrawals has passed through the state Assembly. The bill's sponsor there was Assemblyman Bob Sweeney, who says the state simply doesn't have a good handle on how much water is used, the way it is used, and the impact that the uses have on the environment. He says it is long past time to have a better understanding of those uses.

The main purpose of the bill is to force entities looking to withdraw 100-thousand gallons or more of water to obtain a permit from the DEC before doing so.

And in yet more fracking news, a British energy company has halted its hydraulic fracturing program because of fears that fracking has caused small earthquakes, according to the Globe and Mail:

A small energy company halted its shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing program in Britain after two mild earthquakes were recorded in the vicinity, an area where such tremors are rare.