Dec 7 2011

‘Unprecedented Turnout’

6,000 Attend DEC Public Hearings on Hydraulic Fracturing

in New York;

Public Comment Period Extended 4 Weeks;

Challenge:  Trust an ‘Untrustworthy Industry’?

 

Nadia Steinzor of Earthworks was among nearly 600 who spoke at DEC public hearings in November.

Nearly 6,000 attended eight public hearings in four cities on the subject of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, sponsored by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in November.
Speaking on the record at these public hearings were nearly 600 individuals who spoke for an allotted 3-minutes each.  Both attendance and speaker numbers are from the DEC.  (See breakdown below in text.)
The DEC called it an “unprecedented turnout” in a press release; and, at the same time, it announced a 4-week extension of the comment and feedback period – from December 12 to January 11.1

Participation at the public hearings – which for many required 3-4 hours or more of travel time – validated DEC Commissioner Joe Martens statement in the press release that, “The turnout of 6,000 people at the hearings demonstrates how strongly New Yorkers feel about this important issue.”

The odd note was that the four-week extension of the public comment period came as a single sentence at the end of the press release.

As New York Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo appears ready to open the door to shale gas extraction, the next significant event and activity is to submit written comments to the DEC by close of business on Wednesday, January 11, 2012. This is important because it is the instrument by which the state says it will regulate this industrial activity.

For more information, including guidance on how to do this online, see the second footnote below under Links & Resources.2

 

Public attendance at the DEC hearings was as follows, according to the DEC:

Dansville (2 meetings, Nov. 16):               1550 attendees                150 speakers

Binghamton (2 meetings, Nov. 17):         1905 attendees                154 speakers

Sheldrake (2 meetings, Nov. 29):              600  attendees               144 speakers

NYC (2 meetings, Nov. 30):                        1900  attendees              126 speakers

TOTAL                                                              5,955                                 574

One of the many speakers at these public hearings was Nadia Steinzor, Marcellus Regional Organizer for Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project.  In her allotted 3 minutes, Steinzor thanked the DEC for the opportunity to speak; and acknowledged the difficulty of addressing “modern-day, industrial gas development of the type and on the scale that the state has never seen before.”

She cited gaps, however, in the state’s draft documents – calling them “critical flaws” – “such as no consideration of economic costs, no plans for hazardous waste disposal, sidelining of local zoning rights, no consideration of cumulative impacts, the use of waste pits, and paltry setbacks.”

Steinzor noted:  “One of the biggest holes in the SGEIS is a complete failure to analyze health impacts.  The DEC has ignored direction from the EPA, requests from hundreds of health professionals, and growing evidence nationwide of the health problems experienced by communities exposed to oil and gas development – bloody noses, respiratory distress, skin rashes, dead livestock and pets, cancer clusters, and more.” 

She concluded:  “Unfortunately, if the many critical flaws in the SGEIS and draft regulations are not fixed, New York will actually be just like every other oil and gas state: trusting an untrustworthy industry that’s rarely held accountable for damage or required to prevent it. …”

A pdf file copy of Steinzor’s complete comments can be downloaded under the third footnote below.3  Meanwhile, citizens, property owners and groups should provide input to the DEC no later than January 11.2

Links & Resources

1 ‘Unprecedented Turnout at DEC Hearings on High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing’ – DEC press release (December 1, 2011):  http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/78799.html

2 Public Comments should be made by January 11, 2012 on the revised Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS).  Following are good sources for information.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:  Revised Draft SGEIS (September 2011)http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/75370.html

New York State High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Comments – http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/76838.html

In addition, check out this “how to respond” guide to the DEC online.  It offers a user friendly guide for the lay person to understand and respond to the SGEIS document and New York State’s proposed fracing regulations.  You’ll find analyses by many knowledgeable folks including Chip Northrup, energy industry investor, and Lou Allstadt, former Executive VP of Mobil Oil Corporation: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=DSGEIS_Responses

3 Testimony of Nadia Steinzor of Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project before New York State Department of Environmental Conservation –   NY DEC Testimony NSteinzor

NOTE:  This article is cross-posted on the Accountability Central website at this link: http://www.accountability-central.com/voices-featured-commentators-and-bloggers/mike-benard-columns/  Accountability Central is part of the Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc.

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