Friday, July 1, 2011

SGEIS will be out Next Friday ... Really!

July 8 is the red-letter day for the public release of the much-anticipated, long-awaited almost-final SGEIS (Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement) on high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing in NY. Earlier today Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Joe Martens gave a preview of what to expect. It'll be safer and more protective for landowners, he said.

The SGEIS 2.0 is more protective of water resources for those living in and around the NYC and Syracuse watershed; there will be no fracking in those watersheds. The state will also prohibit hydro-fracking on state lands - because, Martens said, that sort of industrialized activity is inconsistent with the other shared uses and purposes of those publicly held lands. Still, even with all these restrictions the gas drillers should be able to access 80-plus percent of the Marcellus shale beneath NY.

SGEIS 2.0 calls for 500-foot setbacks from primary aquifers, but horizontal wellbores can still tunnel through the shale below those aquifers - as long as it's at least 2000 feet deep. Martens emphasized that the new regs will call for additional intermediate casings and better and more consistent cement jobs. He also noted that right now there aren't a whole lot of DEC field personnel to monitor the wells, so permit applications may pile up on someone's desk for awhile. (of course, a little funding could go a long way here...)

Martens thinks people should continue to be able to breathe, even when drilling is going on all around them, and he pointed to some new requirements for "enhanced air pollution controls on all engines used at well pads." But he didn't mention whether there would be cumulative air impact studies or limits. He did, however, say that the SGEIS will "require the use of existing pipelines when available instead of flaring the gas."

"The 2009 SGEIS did not adequately address impacts on local governments," Martens said. So this time they're gonna do it right. The DEC has hired a consultant (not sure who) to thoroughly examine the socioeconomic impacts, road and infrastructure impacts, visual and noise impacts and more. In addition, the companies must notify local governments when they file an application with DEC and they must certify that their permit complies with local zoning regulations.

In finishing, Martens promised that DEC's oversight of hydro-fracking will be "rigorous". You can listen to him yourself here .

But don't get too excited about filing your permit applications just yet - the final part of the SGEIS will be released end of July (or beginning of August) and then there's a 60-day comment period. After that, Martens said DEC will be busy reading the new comments and determining whether they need to re-evaluate any of their proposed mitigations or rules. "At that point, and only at that point will DEC consider permits," he said. So it sounds like at least another six months before anything will really happen.

1 comment:

  1. How to respond to the SGEIS