August 17, 2011
Groups want longer period to comment on ‘fracking’
Nearly 80 organizations from across New York state are asking for an extended public comment period on proposed guidelines for high-volume hydrofracking.
In a joint letter Monday to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, the organizations asked that the public comment period be extended from 60 to 180 days. They also want the state to schedule public hearings on the draft guidelines.
Sheila Cohen, outreach coordinator for Gas Drilling Awareness for Cortland County, said she wants to see the extended public comment period for the proposed guidelines, known as the revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Statement, because of the complexity of the document.
“The document is very, very extensive, over 1,000 pages,” Cohen said. “It covers many critical issues and we have many concerns.”
Cohen said she would like to see public hearings on the hydrofracking guidelines. In 2009, the state held hearings in Binghamton, Sullivan County, New York City and Delaware County to listen to opinions about hydrofracking.
The DEC’s preliminary guidelines were released in July, but a complete draft is expected to be released for public comment and review in late summer or early fall.
Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, said asking for 180-day comment period is more about delaying the issuing of drilling permits than having a meaningful public discussion.
“The natural gas industry has waited more than three years to move forward with development of the Marcellus Shale,” Gill said in a statement. “The draft ... was to have a 60-day public review period, which has not yet begun. This is more than enough time to allow residents and stakeholders to comment.”
The state draft environmental impact statement lays out areas where gas drilling permits would be forbidden to protect state lands, aquifers and public and private water supplies. Much of Homer, Preble and Cortlandville are protected because of the county’s underlying sole source aquifer that requires a 500-foot buffer.
The regulations also place a 500-foot buffer around state forest lands and require 2,000-foot buffers for public water supplies and reservoirs.
While drilling platforms would not be allowed in these areas, horizontal drilling that extends from the wells would allow the extraction of gas from underneath at least some of those areas.
Cohen said she has concerns about the guidelines. She said they do not include any data from the effects of hydrofracking in Pennsylvania. She said the document also did not include information about hydrofracking’s economic impact on the state.
Cohen said she is concerned about issues including water contamination, pollution problems and truck traffic.
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