DEC's Fracking Report Expected in Beginning of June
The state Department of Environmental Conservation plans to release "a revised draft" of its rules for high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing this summer, DEC spokesman Michael Bopp said.
"There's an executive order that calls for us to issue a revised draft on or about June 1," he said. "That would be followed by a period of public comment of not less than 30 days.
"So, it's going to be this summer; there's going to be time for additional review, and then we need to go back and review whatever new comments we get. We have to address those comments for us to have a final SGEIS (supplemental generic environmental impact statement)."
Bopp said the DEC is trying to be "as responsive and cautious as possible in what we put forth for the public to react to."
Where the agency has received specific comments about deficiencies, "we need to have a very thorough and science-based response to that, and that's what we're trying to do," he said.
After the comment period, "a final draft plan, including a responsiveness summary and a findings statement," would be released, "and in something like 10 days, it becomes the plan, unless it's litigated."
The plan would set the rules for hydrofracking in the state, except for in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, he said.
In those regions, where people's drinking water is unfiltered, gas drilling firms would need to proceed with individual environmental reviews for each well, the way other types of developers do for their projects.
For drillers, that would be "an enormous hurdle," Bopp said.
After the SGEIS is finalized, firms will be regulated by its provisions.
"Then, we'll begin to look at the permits," he said. "We have some number of permits where the application process had started before the moratorium was put in place. So, we'll start there.
"Our expectation is all of that will need to be revisited, with the new requirements that are outlined in the (SGEIS)."
Bopp said about 50 applications were "pre-filed" under the old rules.
"Each of those permits is a highly involved process," he said. "We get submissions from companies about their plans and engineering assessments that we have to stack up against all the environmental mitigation efforts that are outlined in the plan."
Processing those permits will take some time, he said. Asked if he believes there will be horizontal drilling and fracking this year, he said, "I'm not going to speculate on that because we have no end date for the plan."
Bopp said a common misconception is that the SGEIS pertains only to drilling in the Marcellus Shale, but is in fact a document to set the rules for all high volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing -- the process of blasting shale underground to release gas.
Bopp said that assuring the process is safe presents challenges to regulators: "There are two pieces to it. One is the sheer volume of water in and out. Where does the water come from and how do you handle the wastewater?
"The second is what is in fracturing fluid? How toxic is it, how can it be disposed of safely? It is hazardous, or should be hazardous?
Those are questions that have to be further addressed in the final plan.