Martens: Fracking Can Be Safe

With proper safety and oversight, the controversial natural gas extraction process known as hydrofracking can be done safely, DEC Commission Joe Martens said today as the agency unveiled his long-awaited recommendations.

“The goal of the process all along has been to identify the risks associated with high-volume fracturing, to see if they can be mitigated in a way that protects the environment and allows this activity and the economic benefits associated with it to move forward in New York,” Martens said. “I think we’ve done that.”

But the agency also faces questions over whether it can offer proper oversight and whether it has enough staff to oversee hydrofracking once permits are being issued.

“If we don’t have additional resources, I would say, yes, it could create a backlog in permits,” he said.

The agency unveiled today its long-awaited recommendations for the safe use and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, which uses a mixture of chemicals and water to extract natural gas from below ground. Among the 900-pages of recommendations are prohibitions on high-volum fracking near the New York City and Syracuse watershed, as well as a continued ban on hydrofracking on state-owned land.

Environmentalists say the process is too dangerous to be allowed, but business groups point the economic benefits hydrofracking can bring to the job-starved upstate region.

Martens, the former head of an open-space advocacy group, said he traveled to Pennsylvania, where hydrofracking is legal, but lead to an explosion earlier this year causing concerns over the impact to local drinking water. State officials, he said, learned from the trip about what not to do in New York.

Martens pointed to the advisory panel of environmental activists, lawmakers and business leaders as a body that will monitor the proper implementation of hydrofracking.

He also stressed that it was highly unlikely permits would be granted this year. The 60-day public comment on the recommendations won’t begin until the middle of this summer and final report may not be released until the fall.

“We’re not issuing any new permits, any permits for high-volume hydrofracking until this process is complete,” he said.
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Special Elections Set For 9/13

Governor Cuomo has just announced, as expected, that the state will hold special elections for the 6 open Assembly districts and the Congressional seat vacated by Rep. Anthony Weiner on September 13th – which coincides with primaries that are already taking place.

We expected this to happen for several reasons. First, they argue that it will save money because you won’t have to prepare for another election. Secondly, as the Buffalo News points out, if he didn’t call the election before July 6th, then it would have opened the races up to primary candidates.

By calling the elections now, the party leaders can control who gets on the major lines of the ballot. Some good government groups have criticized this policy, and had called on the Governor not to call special elections.

Here are the races that will be held on Sept. 13:

  • 9th Congressional District
  • 23rd Assembly District
  • 27th Assembly District
  • 54th Assembly District
  • 73rd Assembly District
  • 116th Assembly District
  • 144th Assembly District

Maziarz On DEC Proposal: ‘Roadmap For Drilling’

Sen. George Maziarz of Niagara County is pleased with the proposed guidelines issued by the state Department of Environmental Conservation today, saying in a statement that the recommendations provide a “roadmap foor allowing the drilling to proceed.”

New York must have more access to more sources of energy. The new ReCharge NY program, the renewal of the power plant siting law, and creating a new mechanism to implement energy efficiency upgrades highlight the important progress we are making this year in strengthening our energy infrastructure and using it to help our economy. The Marcellus Shale is our next opportunity. Studies have shown we can drill productively there, and we can drill safely there.

His statement was in contrast to Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, who said it was “misguided and premature” to allow drilling to move forward.

In his statement, Maziarz, a Republican, notes the controverial drilling process could lead to an economic boon to New York. The state’s Business Council says up to 37,000 jobs could be created if hydrofracking is allowed to proceed.

Maziarz’s full statement is after the jump.
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Cahill: DEC ‘Misguided And Premature’

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, who chairs the Energy Committee, just fired out a press release harshly criticizing the DEC’s decision to let the hydrofracking process go forward, calling it “misguided and premature”.

“For the last several years, we have known that certain aspects of fracking pose serious, negative environmental consequences. Among the vexing issues still unresolved is that New York currently has no sure and safe way to dispose of spent fracking fluid,” Cahill said in the statement.

“Serious concerns have also been raised about the impact on the water supply for residents proximate to wells. Exempting the New York City and Syracuse watersheds from drilling does not address the legitimate apprehensions of those who live outside of these regions, yet face the same risks of dangerous contamination.”

Cahill goes on to call for the state to wait for the EPA’s studies to come back before moving forward with issuing any permits. He invokes ‘Enron’ in a criticism of the economic benefits, and also urges the state to support the moratorium the Assembly passed earlier this year.

Here is Cahill’s complete statement.
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Hydrofracking Panel Members Released

Here are the members of the DEC’s High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel.

These people are going to develop recommendations to make sure the DEC can properly oversee fracking, help local governments deal with the impacts of fracking, and also evaluate the “current fee structure and other revenue streams” to make sure there is funding for the oversight of the industry.

  • Stan Lundine, former NYS Lt. Governor
  • Kathleen McGinty, Former Chair of White House Council on Environmental Quality under President Clinton
  • Eric A. Goldstein and Kate Sinding, Senior Attorneys, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Robert Hallman, Board Chair, NY League of Conservation Voters
  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr., President of the Waterkeeper Alliance
  • Robert Moore, Executive Director, Environmental Advocates
  • Mark Brownstein, Chief Counsel, Energy Program, Environmental Defense Fund
  • Heather Briccetti, Acting President & CEO, Business Council of New York State, Inc.
  • Robert B. Catell, Chairman, Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center at SUNY Stony Brook
  • Mark K. Boling, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Southwestern Energy
  • Senator Tom Libous, Deputy Majority Leader
  • Assemblymember Donna Lupardo

Ruffalo Rips DEC Guidelines

Actor and leading anti-hydrofracking activist Mark Ruffalo just fired out a statement blasting the DEC guidelines, saying they won’t protect New Yorkers. He focuses on the fact that the regulations only protect the watershed for NYC and the Syracuse area, and doesn’t take steps to protect other watersheds.

“The DEC apparently thinks only residents of New York City and Syracuse deserve protection, and it’s acceptable for everyone else to become collateral damage. There are thousands of watersheds in New York State. All of them are at risk, and all of them should be protected. Instead, the DEC appears to be playing divide and conquer along upstate/downstate lines.”

Now, we have yet to see the full report, but there are several things in the press release that would indicate that there will be protections for drinking water in many other areas without a full out ban on drilling in any watershed.

Ruffalo’s complete statement is after the jump.
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Hoyt Officially Announced

Governor Andrew Cuomo has just made it official, announcing that Assemblyman Sam Hoyt is going to serve as the Sr. Vice President for Regional Economic Development at the ESDC.

Hoyt’s resignation was submitted at midnight Wednesday, and yesterday he announced he was leaving the Assembly to join the administration.

“Sam Hoyt has dedicated his life to serving the people of New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “During his almost 20 years in the New York State Assembly, Sam has proven to be a dedicated public servant who puts the needs of his constituents and community first. He has demonstrated the type of dedication and enthusiasm required for this new challenge.”

Hoyt becomes the 4th member of the Assembly to join the administration, and will be the 6th vacant assembly seat that will need to be filled by special election.

Complete release after the jump.
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Martens Blasts Times’ Hydrofracking Story

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens is complaining in a letter to the editor today that The New York Times account of the proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing was unfairly reported.

In the letter obatined by Capital Tonight, Martens charges the Times “failed to present an even and objective story” and writes that the story failed to include supportive viewpoints from environmental groups.

The Times scooped midday Thursday that the state may lift its moratorium on the controversial natural-gas extraction process commonly known as hydrofracking.

The Cuomo administration initially responded that the story was “baseless” before the DEC released some details of the draft environmnetal impact statement due to be released later today. The Times story came as Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in Westchester and on Long Island touting the approval of a 2 percent tax cap and as the administration was announcing the closure of seven prisons across the state, making a busy news day even busier.

Most environmental groups responded cautiously to the news Thursday after the details were released, saying they would have to further review the report. But regulations are expected to include a ban on high-volume hydrofracking near the New York City and Syracuse watersheds — a move environmentalists will likely support.

The process utilizes a mixture of chemicals and water to blast through rock and extract natural gas underneath. Environmental advocates are concerned hydrofracking could damage a local water table. But business groups say drilling for natural gas in hard-hit areas of the state could provide an economic boon to the area, especially the Southern Tier region.

Martens is expected to unveil later today the proposed regulations, which would go to a 60-day public comment period.


Here And Now

We should learn more about the DEC’s recommendations for hydraulic fracturing today at 11am when Commission Joe Martens addresses the media.

The plan is expected to allow for drilling in 85% of the Marcellus shale.

Both supporters and opponents are waiting to see the final report before making final judgement.

NYLCV President Marcia Bystryn, who will be a guest on CapTon tonight, says “the devil is in the details.”

The Post writes “Frack, baby, Frack.”

Governor’s prison closure plan spared the North Country.

Senator Dave Valesky will see 2 prisons in his district shut down.

Even with the news about hydrofracking, and the release of the prison closures, Cuomo’s property tax cap tour still got a lot of press.

A former Auburn Mayor says state leaders missed the mark when it comes to mandate relief.

The Journal News agrees that more needs to be done.

Some state workers were given hours to decide if they wanted to be bumped to a lower paying job or risk being laid off, before PEF stepped in to delay the process.

Some in the liberal press still have some beef with Cuomo.

Matilda Cuomo says her son is still her “little man”.
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On Second Thought…

Upon seeing the DEC’s press release, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver did an about-face on hydrofracking, releasing a decidedly more positive statement than the one he sent out in the wake of the NY Times report.

“I am pleased that the DEC will permanently ban hydraulic fracturing in sensitive watershed areas and the aquifers that feed them,” Silver said.

“The Assembly also will be vigilant as the DEC moves forward and will work to ensure that no permits are issued anywhere in the state where there are any possible dangers identified by the federal EPA study.”