ALBANY, NY (06/29/2011)(readMedia)-- As the 2011 New York State Legislative Session fades from view and Governor Cuomo's deadline for the release of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) revised Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) looms, environmental groups applauded the State Assembly for passing legislation to protect New Yorkers from industrial gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." The Assembly passed three significant bills designed to safeguard the state's waters, public health, and communities from fracking, a resource-intensive and polluting drilling practice. Because the State Senate failed to do the same during the Legislative Session, all eyes are now on the Governor.
The DEC is expected to release the revised SGEIS soon. According to a memo from Director of State Operations Howard Glaser, the Governor's office gave the agency a July 1, 2011 deadline to release the environmental impact statement.
The Assembly passed legislation this year that would close a legal loophole that allows the gas industry to circumvent requirements for the management and disposal of hazardous waste (A.7013, Sweeney / S.4616, Avella), as well as a bill that would extend the state's de facto moratorium on fracking until next year (A.7400, Sweeney, Silver, Farrell / S. 5592, Carlucci). The Assembly also passed (A. 3245, Lifton / S.3472, Oppenheimer) which would clarify the right of communities to use home rule zoning and ordinances, in addition to statewide environmental regulations, to put limits on fracking.
Despite bipartisan support for these measures, including that of Senate Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Mark Grisanti and numerous co-sponsors, the New York State Senate failed to take up legislation to safeguard against fracking this year.
"Assembly members clearly understand that they have a duty to protect communities and the environment from the rush to drill," said Nadia Steinzor, Marcellus Regional Organizer for Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project. "While it's unfortunate that their Senate colleagues didn't also act in the best interest of New Yorkers, progress has been made in advancing laws that should be in place before gas development expands."
Now that the Legislative Session has ended, the New York Water Rangers are urging Governor Cuomo not to rush the DEC's environmental review and give the agency time to conduct a thorough assessment of fracking's cumulative impacts on the state's air, water, and communities. The groups are also calling on the Governor and the DEC to update New York's oil, gas and mining regulations, which were put in place more than 30 years ago.
In an August 20, 2010 interview with NY1, candidate Cuomo said, "We should not pursue it [high volume hydraulic fracturing] unless and until we know that environmentally it is safe." In light of recent stories in The New York Times featuring industry insiders calling into question the economic viability of large-scale fracking in areas like the Marcellus Shale, fracking's documented dangers shouldn't take a backseat to overblown promises of gas-generated revenue.
"New York Water Rangers agree with Governor Cuomo that watersheds are sacrosanct," said Sarah Eckel, Legislative and Policy Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "The public eagerly awaits Governor Cuomo's leadership to ensure that everybody's water is protected from dirty drilling."
"New York's first stab at assessing the environmental impacts of fracking was plagued by fatal flaws and inadequate given the pressure to 'drill here and drill now'," said David Gahl, Policy Director for Environmental Advocates of New York. "The question is whether the Department of Environmental Conservation has had enough time and resources to fix the flaws, and if the agency is ready to do what it takes to properly protect New York's water and communities from fracking, because the gas will wait. It's not going anywhere."
"Not only is it critical that DEC be given the time to complete a thorough and comprehensive environmental review, it is equally important that the public receive a full and fair opportunity to review and comment on the revised draft, a lengthy technical document of more than 800 pages," said Kate Hudson, Watershed Program Director for Riverkeeper. "Particularly in light of the level of public concern about hydrofracking in New York, we strongly support the position taken by members of the Assembly in their June 16 letter to DEC Commissioner Martens, requesting that DEC provide a comment period of at least 180 days and schedule at least four public hearings in the Marcellus Shale region and New York City."
"Despite our disappointment that the State Senate failed to take up important fracking related measures passed by the Assembly this session, we continue to believe that New York can be a national, and even international, leader on this critical issue," said Kate Sinding, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "If Governor Cuomo stays true to his word to ensure that new fracking will not be allowed unless and until it can be proven safe-which means, first and foremost, giving his agency the time and resources it needs to analyze these complex issues properly-New York can still lead the way."
To frack a gas well, millions of gallons of water, sand, and toxic chemicals are pumped deep underground at high pressure. This fractures the rock that has trapped the gas for millennia and allows it to escape. From start to finish, gas development that relies on fracking is an industrial process that threatens our water. State after state, from Wyoming to Pennsylvania, has documented its dangers. New York can't afford to put short-term gas profits ahead of the long-term health of our water and our communities.
For more information:
Erica Ringewald, Environmental Advocates, 518.210.9903
Sarah Eckel, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, 202.486.9007
Tina Posterli, Riverkeeper, 914.478.4501 x 239
The New York Water Rangers campaign is supported by a network of organizations working to protect the rights and health of New Yorkers and one of our most precious environmental resources-water-from the dangers of irresponsible, poorly regulated, and under-inspected natural gas exploration and development. The campaign is supported by Catskill Mountainkeeper, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Earthjustice, EARTHWORKS Oil & Gas Accountability Project, Environmental Advocates of New York, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Riverkeeper. Visit www.CleanWaterNotDirtyDrilling.org to learn more.