Thursday, August 9, 2012

4000 Pages and Counting...

New York’s “much-anticipated report on high-volume hydraulic fracturing” continues to grow, reports Jon Campbell. It’s about 4,000 pages and the review process has yet to be completed.

Back in September the “Revised draft” of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) weighed in at about 1,537 pages – that’s including the appendices. But a couple days ago Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens told Campbell that the agency had already compiled “a couple thousand” pages of responses to issues raised during the public comment periods.

There is still more work to be done, he said, and there is no firm timetable on when a final report may be released. Till then, high-volume hydrofracking is on hold in New York until it is complete.

Or at least until Labor Day, speculates Fred LeBrun in recent commentary in the Times Union.

On the other hand, it could take well into next year. There are a number of practical considerations before drilling becomes reality. First, it could take weeks, even months for operators to apply or reapply for permits under whatever new plan takes shape. Then there are some legislative barriers: just how does a state go about permitting drilling when the permitting agency is understaffed and underfunded?

Then there are the economic barriers: a weak market and gas prices lower than ever.

Still, it seems Gov Andrew Cuomo still has a fracking plan on the table. Journalist Tom Wilber posts an excellent summary of  major points including when and where wells could be drilled, home rule considerations and a few niggling complications in the SGEIS, such as green completions which require pipelines and infrastructure to be in place prior to drilling. Oh yeah, and a needed but ignored health impact study.

One sticking point in the whole deal is funding. How does DEC permit, inspect and oversee shale gas development without boots on the ground. According to Wilber, the legislative fight to fund increased environmental enforcement will be epic.

Wilber would call it critical. “The best regulations in the world mean little if there are no resources to ensure their enforcement,” he writes. But go, read it for yourself. It is well worth the extra click.

No comments:

Post a Comment