Sunday, March 21, 2010
What's up in N.Y.
ban on gas drilling unlikelyNY’s officials oppose change in regulationsBy Steve IsraelTimes Herald-RecordPosted: January 11, 2010 – 2:00 AMDon’t look for the state to heed calls to stop or slow down gas drilling — even though the requests have come from such powerful interests as New York City, the Environmental Protection Agency and a union of Department of Environmental Conservation workers.In the just-ended comment period on new regulations for gas drilling in the Marcellus shale, which sits beneath Sullivan County and much of the New York City watershed, many of the approximately 12,000 responses urged the state to scrap the regulations and redo them. Critics want new rules to ban drilling in the city watershed and address such issues as pollution from the horizontal drilling method, known as “fracking,” and cumulative impacts.But scrapping the regulations that allow drilling isn’t likely to happen, says Gov. David Paterson’s office.“We need to wait and see what the final GEIS (Generic Environmental Impact Statement) is like,” said Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook. “Calls for bans or further delays are premature. Why would we scrap the work done over the past 12 months?”While neither the state nor the DEC would specifically address New York City’s call to ban drilling in its million-acre watershed, a sliver of which sits in Sullivan, the DEC has said a ban would be illegal since about 70 percent of the land there is privately owned.It “would limit the mineral rights of the private property owners,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said in testimony before the state Assembly.Plus, the DEC points out that all watersheds deserve equal protection. Banning drilling in one area could a set a precedent.“The premise of the DEC’s job is to come up with something that is protective of watersheds everywhere in the state,” said DEC spokesman Yancey Roy.The proposed regulations don’t do that, says a prominent drilling opponent, who called the rules “fatally flawed.”“Their job is to protect the environment, and the fact that they’re not is a travesty. The EPA knows it, the city knows and the DEC union knows it,” said Ramsay Adams, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper.Still, those regulations are meant to satisfy Paterson’s energy plan, which includes drilling.Some gas companies feel the rules “in certain areas go too far and place New York at a competitive disadvantage with other states,” said Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York.Finding the middle ground between environmental protection and economic development is the state’s task.“The goal is to listen to both sides and strike a balance,” said Paterson spokesman Hook.firstname.lastname@example.org