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The public is open minded to the notion of economic development opportunities, especially in New York’s Southern Tier.

DEC issues hydrofracking assessment, seeks comments

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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has announced it will lengthen the public comment period on its final draft environmental impact statement for hydraulic fracturing. The comment period will be extended from 60 to 90 days and the DEC will hold four public hearings. Karen DeWitt reports.

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Three hearings will be held in the Marcellus shale region, where hydrofracking on private lands is likely to be permitted. An additional hearing will be held in New York City. All four will take place in November. The DEC says specific dates and places will be announced shortly.

Katherine Nadeau, with Environmental Advocates, says that’s good news.

“We are glad that the state has realized that residents need more than 60 days to look at this draft,” said Nadeau, whose group had been seeking a comment period of 180 days.

Environmental Advocates said the four hearings are a positive development, but that they would like more attention focused on the Utica shale area, which is also being considered for hydro fracking. 

A spokesman for the state’s Independent Oil and Gas Association, Paul Larrabee, says the drilling industry does not think an extended comment period is necessary, but that it can live with the additional 30 day extension.

“90 days seems appropriate in light of the fact that there is significant new material contained in the revised report,” said Larrabee.

Larrabee says the gas drillers are still poring over the report and will wait until the hearings are held to issue comments and offer feedback on specific details . 

He says public opinion polls show that New Yorkers are somewhat supportive of hydro fracking, and, he says, he hopes the ongoing review process will help to bolster public confidence.

“The public is open minded to the notion of economic development opportunities, especially in New York’s Southern Tier,” said Larrabee.

The report estimates that 4,408 to over 17,634 construction jobs would be created, with an additional 29,174 jobs resulting indirectly from the drilling industry. It also states that increased truck traffic could be a problem on rural roads, especially during the construction phase. As well, noise could be an issue and the wells themselves might present “adverse” visual impacts.

The final draft of the report also says the DEC should require drilling companies to consider using green chemicals first, before using more potentially hazardous mixtures to extract the gas.  

Nadeau, with Environmental Advocates, says that the language used could be stronger, and that the agency should impose stricter regulations on the chemicals contained in fracking fluids.

“I think the state could do much better,” Nadaeu said.

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens was too busy dealing with new flooding in upstate New York to hold a planned teleconference on the report, but said in a statement that the agency’s priority is to protect the state’s drinking water and environment while, “exploring options to safely and efficiently extract the state’s natural gas”.  Martens predicts that the state’s economy will “benefit” from fracking and the “job opportunities” he says it will bring.

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