Above: Locations of upcoming public hearings on the DEC's new draft gas drilling regulations.
On Wednesday, September 28, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation riled environmental and anti-driling groups by issuing drafts of regulations that would allow the practice of hydraulic fracturing in New York state.
Anti-drilling proponents are angry that the DEC issued the proposed regs before it completed the final draft of the enormous environmental impact statement on fracking, which is in its public comment phase until December 12.
NYC Councilman James Gennaro excoriated the DEC for the move. So did Riverkeeper. Eric Goldstein, the senior staff attorney at the National Resources Defense Council, fired off a blog post criticizing the DEC for the move:
The DEC issued proposed rules for regulating industrial gas drilling throughout the state’s portion of the Marcellus Shale even before it has completed the legally required environmental review process on which future regulations are supposed to be based.
DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens attempted to stave off such crticism with a statement that the public should have a chance to examine the draft regulations as soon as possible:
"Public review of the proposed requirements and regulations governing high-volume hydraulic fracturing is an important part of the environmental impact statement process," DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said.
The DEC's announcement of multiple public hearings to discuss the proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations also made waves this week.
Hearings will be held in November in four locations in Livingston County, Sullivan County, Broome County, and Manhattan. (For a full list of times and locations, see the bottom of this post.)
According to the Daily Star, anti-drilling groups in Schoharie, Delaware, Otsego, and Chenango counties are outraged that meetings were not scheduled near them:
The schedule for four public hearings on the state's plan to allow hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells was released Wednesday -- a lineup that was immediately criticized by anti-drilling activists who insisted on at least one meeting in Otsego, Chenango, Delaware or Schoharie counties ... "For them not to hold a hearing up here is just unconscionable," Ellen Pope of Otsego 2000 said.* "It appears they think we're just a hotbed of opposition, and they'd rather not deal with us."
Behind all the kerfluffle about the new regulations is a curious lack of analysis of what they actually say. For that, you have to go to a lawyer.
Silverberg writes that the new regs change three different areas of New York State law: laws that regulate state-owned lands, laws that govern mineral resources regulation, and laws that regulate state pollutant discharge elimination systems (SPDES) permits.
According to our reading of Silverbrg's analysis, these are the big regulatory changes being proposed:
- For state-owned lands, the new regs prohibit gas drilling on the surface, but allow gas wells to extend under state land from surface wells elsewhere.
- The mineral resources regs are changed to allow permitting and regulation of gas drilling wells.
- The SPDES law is changed to state that high-volume hydraulic fracturing operations required SPDES permits.
A list of all the scheduled hearings about the proposed regulation changes:
11/16/2011 1:00 PM Dansville Middle School Auditorium, 31 Clara Barton Street, Dansville
11/16/2011 6:00 PM Dansville Middle School Auditorium, 31 Clara Barton Street, Dansville
11/17/2011 1:00 PM The Forum Theatre, 236 Washington Street, Binghamton
11/17/2011 6:00 PM The Forum Theatre, 236 Washington Street, Binghamton
11/29/2011 1:00 PM Sullivan County Community College, Seelig Theatre, 112 College Road, Loch Sheldrake
11/29/2011 6:00 PM Sullivan County Community College, Seelig Theatre, 112 College Road, Loch Sheldrake
11/30/2011 1:00 PM Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY
11/30/2011 6:00 PM Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY