Cuomo Will Review Hydrofracking Report

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has apparently received the 900-page DEC hydrofracking report that he will be considering as the public review process continues. In the meantime, he’s refraining from saying very much on this controversial topic.

The report in which the agency recommends a limited lifting on the fracking moratorium, opening about 85 percent of the Marcellus Shale to drilling, has not yet been released publicly. It will be available on the DEC Website on July 8, according to DEC Commissioner Joe Martens.

CapTon’s Nick Reisman informs me that members of the press can pick up a copy of the report on a CD this afternoon at 5 p.m.

Happy July 4th weekend LCA!

I want to thank Commissioner Martens and the DEC for their tireless work on behalf of all New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The DEC’s decision was based on rigorous testing, research, facts and science, not politics or ideology on the issue. The reports come after tens of thousands of work-hours by dozens of professional experts.”

“The DEC carefully balances the need to protect our environment and ensure the safety of the drinking water of millions of New Yorkers and at the same time charts a possible path forward to extract these natural resources safely and under aggressive and effective regulation.”

“We have appointed a highly credible panel of nationally recognized experts to help guide this process going forward and monitor future regulation and oversight. I will continue to review the report and I trust the professionals at DEC to carry through the public review process to its appropriate completion.”

Enviros: More Details Needed On Hydrofracking

Environmentalist advocates say more details are needed before the state can move forward with hydraulic fracturing guidelines.

The advocates — who weren’t allowed to attend the news conference today with DEC Commissioner Joe Martens — say that prohibiting hydrofracking in New York City and Syracuse watersheds is a sign that the sate knows the controversial process isn’t safe.

“That’s the Department of Environmental Conservation acknowledging there are some serious, serious risks to this process and that perhaps it isn’t safe,” said Katherine Nadeau of the Environmental Advocates of New York. “And if that’s the case then the department really needs to step up and determine how they’re going to guarantee safety for citizens statewide. And really the burden of proof that this is safe is on the drillers.”

Nadeau also said the plan for fracking waste water — which the DEC plans to classify as similar to medical waste — needs more fleshing out as well.

“There was very detail in what’s going to happen to the waste water that’s produced by these wells. It’s very toxic, it contains carcinogens and it is a known threat to public health. We need to have more details on that, certainly. That waste water should not be allowed to go to waste water treatment plants, and that’s what the DEC appears to be proposing,” she said.

Cuomo: Promises Made, Promises Kept

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has released “progress report” that tracks his accomplishments during his first six months in office, pointing out that he has delivered on a number of top promises made in his “New New York Agenda” during the 2010 campaign.

Those include: The on-time budget without tax increases, an ethics reform bill, the tax cap and “restoring New York as a progressive leader” by getting the Legislature to pass the same-sex marriage bill.

Cuomo also said he “fought to protect New York’s rent regulation laws, which provide affordable housing for almost a million New York families and individuals.”

The veracity of that statement depends largely on which camp you fall into. The tenant advocates and a number black and Latino legislators have groused that the deal Cuomo and legislative leaders struck on rent didn’t go nearly far enough to strengthen the laws.

In addition, the governor says he “placed a new focus on teachers and teacher performance” by working with the state Education Department and the Board of Regents to establish a teacher evalution system (which is now being challenged in court by the teacher’s union).

Later on in the document, the governor says he “realigned” state education aid to provide “sustainable and predictable” funding. He doesn’t mention that the budget included a reduction of more than $1 billion in school aid.

“In his first six months in office, Governor Cuomo has made significant progress in making his transformational plan for building a New New York a reality,” the report states.

“While much has been done, much more still needs to be accomplished to restore our State to greatness. In the year ahead, Governor Cuomo will continue working to rebuild the State’s economy, lower taxes through mandate relief and pension reform, initiate the next phase of restructuring State government through his SAGE commission and ensure world class healthcare and education for our people.”

Legislative Session Summary_h7N

Goo-Goos Disappointed In Cuomo

A coaliton of good government organizations are expressing “disappointment” with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to call special elections to fill the six vacant Assembly seats instead of letting the regular primary and general election process play out.

Cuomo’s move means the selection of candidates will be largely controlled by major party leaders, although it is possible – albeit difficult – for independent contenders to circulate petitions and get onto the ballot.

In a joint statement issued this afternoon, the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause/NY, Citizens Union, the League of Women Voters of NYS and NYS, NYPIRG and the Women’s City Club Of New York said that while special elections are in keeping with “political tradition,” going this route “represents a lost opportunity to change business as usual and challenge the entrenched interests that dominate special elections.”

That’s a serious zinger for a guy like Cuomo, whose entire 2010 platform was all about taking on the so-called “special interests,” although the definition of who fell into that category was rather subjective – unions and lobbyists, yes; business organizations that fueled the Committee to Save NY, no.

Also interesting to note: Most of these groups worked with the governor on the ethics reform legislation and then praised the final product, even while acknowledging it was far from perfect.

“The governor’s action comes after a legislative session that saw no meaningful election reform legislation
or administrative actions to increase voter participation,” the goo-goos continued.

“The governor has compounded the lack of action by scheduling special elections for these seats on Primary Day, when fewer voters turn out as compared to theGeneral Election in November…We urge the Governor to commit to a swift end of the current practice of filling vacancies for state offices, through legislative or executive action.”

Citizens Union recently released a report titled “Circumventing Democracy” that highlights the flaws of the special election process and also notes how many current incubent legislators got their foot in the door this way.


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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