Nearly two weeks ago NY Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo asking him to temporarily halt the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) process. Her reason: The SGEIS is flawed and inherently inadequate. There are too many issues - including cumulative impacts, wastewater treatment and disposal, and health issues – that were excluded from the initial scoping document.
“We need to fix it,” Lifton said. She wants the governor to pause the SGEIS process for 30 days to allow the public to comment. Sixty-three of her colleagues from both houses and both sides of the aisle have added their signatures to the letter – but so far, no response from the guv.
Since the SGEIS process began, a lot of information has come to light. Lifton ticked off items that concern her:
- Given the increased salts and other pollutants that have ended up in Pennsylvania streams, we need increased state and federal oversight in wastewater disposal.
- Given new data on methane emissions from gas drilling and production, we need to consider the entire life cycle of unconventional drilling.
- Given that conventional drilling in NY has not brought increased economic benefit to those counties, when compared to non-drilling areas, we need to have better economic studies.
- Given that public health concerns were given short shrift in the original scoping document, they need to be covered more fully.
Add to Lifton’s list one more item: concern that landowners trying to buy or sell their leased properties may not be able to obtain financing. This week Walter Hang (of Toxics Targeting) sent his own letter to the governor asking that Cuomo expand the SGEIS to include leasing and property concerns.
“Gas leasing could have potentially catastrophic impacts on mortgage lending and real estate values throughout the Marcellus Shale formation,” Hang says. He cited a recent memo circulating from within the residential mortgage lending department at Tompkins County Trust. Items of concern included:
- Drilling might reduce property value. That has already happened in other states, especially in neighborhoods where water has been contaminated.
- Neither FHA nor HUD will finance property where there is surface and/or subsurface activity within 300 feet of a structure or property line. Activity within 200 feet prevents most other conventional financing.
- Whether drilling qualifies as a “commercial venture” and thus would void title insurance.