Thursday, March 31, 2011

DEC Finds SGEIS a bit Tougher than Expected

Before leaving office, former NY Governor David Paterson directed NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to complete the SGEIS for high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing in shale by June 1. Yesterday Joe Martens, new head of DEC, told AP that DEC staff would meet twice each week starting in April and "through the summer" to complete the final rules.

The SGEIS is the "Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement" that will supplement current gas drilling regulations with new rules for fracking in shale formations. The 809-page first draft was published in Sept. 2009 and opened for comments. More than 13,000 industry groups, environmental groups, lobbyists, municipal representatives and residents sent comments to DEC, and the agency is still trying to sift through the mountain of paper (and email).

Martens told AP that Paterson's June 1 date was more a guideline and less a deadline. He said the work would likely continue through the summer and verified that there will indeed be a public comment period of at least 30 days. Maybe longer, because the revisions are extensive and Martens feels they may need to allow more time for comments.

As for pressure to hurry on the permits, Martens told AP that DEC "will only deal with the number of permits that we have the staff to handle." He promised that if the agency can only process 10 permits a year, then that's what they'll do - even if 150 applications are sitting in the queue.

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