March 28, 2011 - New York State Update on Marcellus Shale/Hydraulic Fracturing
Status of Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement:
On March 24, 2011 the environmental group Toxics Targeting held a rally at the Capitol in Albany, New York to ask the governor to oppose hydraulic fracturing. The group hopes to persuade Governor Cuomo to expand the scope of the SGEIS and delay drilling for several more years.
New York Legislative Developments:
On March 21, 2011 Assembly bill A6488 was introduced. The bill is a reaction to the New York Times Article published several weeks ago that suggested treatment plants in Pennsylvania were discharging drilling wastewater with high levels of radiation. The bill would prohibit treatment plants from accepting drilling wastes with radium levels higher than 12x the federal Safe Drinking Water Act standard and require biannual testing for radioactivity. Public disclosure would be required prior to the discharge of wastewater containing radioactive elements. The bill would also require testing of wastewater before it is sent to a treatment facility and disclosure of the results to the treatment facility.
On March 21, 2011 Assembly bill A6540 was introduced. The bill would require a certificate of competence to be submitted for each person who will operate any drilling equipment or equipment used in connection with drilling.
On March 21, 2011 Assembly bill A6541, titled the “Look Before You Leap Act of 2011,” was introduced. The bill would establish a five-year moratorium on high volume hydraulic fracturing and directs a university study of the process to be completed during that time.
On March 16, 2011 Assembly bill A6426 was introduced. Among other provisions, the bill would:
Prohibit natural gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed, drinking water recharge areas, or within the New York City watershed (including within 5 miles of its boundary);
Create a presumption that contamination of drinking water in an area where drilling occurs is caused by drilling;
Require disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluids in the application for a drilling permit and the exact formula used in an emergency health situation;
Set standards for the composition of hydraulic fracturing compounds;
Prohibit storage of liquid waste in open lagoons;
Set hours of operation;
Provide integrated landowners with the highest royalty payment within the production pool;
Require a permit for any surface or groundwater withdrawals of more than 5,000 gallons per day or more than one percent of in-stream flow; and
Allow annual state auditing of royalty payments.
Please note the red underlined items. These are the items that our political consultant in Albany and the members of the JLCNY's Political Action Committee have determined represent the greatest threat to achieving our goal of Safe, responsible and timely development of your natural gas. If these issues are not dealt with successfully it will be years, if ever, before you will be able to lease your land. The expertise and team work that identifies these issues, targets them for follow up action, and communicates them to you is what your contributions support. If you have not already donated to the JLCNY please do so at our website today.
On March 21, 2011 the Center for American Progress released a report calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to regulate hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The report also called for full public disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals under the Community Right-to-Know-Act. The group suggested that drillers should be required to track wastewater and conduct tests for radioactive elements and other contaminants. Enforcement of additional regulations on air and water would be funded by a small production fee paid by drillers.
On March 16, 2011 Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) deputy secretary for field operations, Dana Aunkst, spoke before a natural gas forum in Washington D.C. Aunkst stated that the water consumption issue has been exaggerated and that the average consumption of water in the state is “no greater than one of our power plants.” He admitted, however, that the industry is not yet at its full potential. He also outlined other major areas regulated by DEP including soil erosion, storm runoff, and air quality. He emphasized that there are no current health hazards but said the state is taking “precautionary controls” including increasing the frequency of testing at drinking water intakes.
On March 15, 2011 Congressional Democrats reintroduced legislation that would require the disclosure of hazardous chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids. The bill was introduced by Rep. Diana DeGett (D-CO) and 31 co-sponsors as the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (“FRAC Act”). Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and seven co-sponsors introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Under the bill, reports of chemicals would have to be submitted to EPA or state regulators before and after the fracturing process. The bill would also remove exemptions for drilling under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
That's the update for now. Of course this is a very fast paced issue and we'll continue to work at it as best we can with our limited funds. We'll be sending out another update as events dictate a need.