New York. It's where dreams are made, right? Well, not so much for the oil and gas industry. The state has been in a gridlock with the industry and environmentalists holding fast to their opinions about shale development and hydraulic fracturing. So much so, that the state's government has been debating the same issue for more than four years. But time is running out.
Will Fracking Get the Green Light in New York?
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has been reviewing the comments and proposed regulation on the revised draft of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) and preparing responses that are set for release Feb. 27, 2013.
The department began the public process to develop the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS) in 2008 by hosting public scoping sessions in order to issue hydraulic fracturing permits to recover natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, which covers most of New York and ranges in depths down to 7,000 feet below the surface.
Since 2008, the department has collaborated with industry experts to analyze information about the proposed operations and the potential adverse impacts of these operations on the environment, as well as carving out criteria and conditions for future permit approvals and other regulatory action.
In September 2009, the state released draft regulations for public review and comment. The draft regulations are set to create a legal framework for implementing the proposed mitigation measures in the revised draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement.
After much public comment in 2010, the DEC revised the draft and made the Preliminary Revised Draft document available in July 2011. Additional information was added and another revision was released Sept. 7, 2011.
This revision, titled the Revised Draft SGEIS, was posted and provided for public comment in November 2011. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation held its fourth and final public hearing, which brought in around 6,000 people.
"The turnout of 6,000 people at the hearings demonstrates how strongly New Yorkers feel about this important issue," said Joe Martens, DEC Commissioner, in a December 2011 statement. "Public input on the draft environment impact statement is an important and insightful part of developing responsible conditions for this activity as well as determining whether it can be safely conducted."
Governor Andrew Cuomo has publicly remained neutral on the issue. Last year he ordered a health review of fracking before finalizing his decision, but the Nov. 29, 2012 health review deadline was missed and delayed, again.
This delay caused the DEC to apply for a 90-day extension, "in order to give New York State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Nirav Shah time to complete his review of the dSGEIS," stated DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis in a November 2012 statement.
She added that this extension is necessary in order for DEC to have time to review the doctor's comments.
The public comment period ended Jan. 11, 2013.
How Do New Yorkers Feel?
This issue has been very controversial, partially due to the state's close proximity to Pennsylvania, where the state has benefitted from fracking.
The Joint Landowners Coalition wrote a letter on Jan. 10, 2013 to the governor saying the latest obstacle is a "breach of faith" in government, said Dan Fitzsimmons, president of the organization overseeing 77,000 New York landowners working with gas companies hoping to receive fair deals.
The governor is getting cold feet in the face of growing opposition, added Fitzsimmons in an interview with Rigzone.
"This situation is taking away the rights from landowners and our mineral rights - and our ability to move forward. If you look at all forms of energy, there are consequences with everything. Nothing is perfect," Fitzsimmons said.
"The health effects of fracking have already been studied extensively, and numerous other states and nations have used the process successfully for years. We only have to look across the southern border into Pennsylvania, to see the economic benefits that gas drilling can bring," Fitzsimmons said.
"It's so frustrating," he lamented, who sees "thriving" businesses in Pennsylvania, and farmers repairing their homes and barns, and buying new tractors. "Natural gas is one of the cleanest products that we have," said Fitzsimmons. "It is what we should be doing."
However, the opposition for allowing this widely-used procedure is growing louder. In January 2013, environmental advocates walked to the governor's office and delivered 50 boxes of what they said were 204,000 anti-drilling comments to the DEC.
Some comments included concern over the proposed Constitution Pipeline, a joint venture between Williams Partners LP and Cabot Oil and Gas Corp., and how the pipeline will hinder the environment and private property.
The 121-mile pipeline will connect natural gas production in northeastern Pennsylvania to the Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline systems in Schoharie County, N.Y. The proposed project route will mainly follow Interstate 88 and is designed to transport natural gas that has already been produced in Pennsylvania.
Before the pipeline can be constructed, Constitution Pipeline Company must first obtain a federal Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The company has requested that FERC initiate a pre-filing environmental review of the proposed pipeline route. Following the pre-filing period, the company will file an application with FERC in the spring of 2013 seeking approval to construct the pipeline.
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