On July 1, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) issued a revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“SGEIS”) recommending that high-volume hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) be banned in the New York City and Syracuse drinking water watersheds but that fracking be allowed to proceed, subject to strict regulation, on private property. Fracking uses high-pressured water, combined with chemicals, to release natural gas present underground in shale formations.
The revised Draft SGEIS contains recommendations to mitigate the environmental effects of fracking. These recommendations, which would make approximately 85 percent of the Marcellus Shale accessible to natural gas production, include the following:
- Fracking would be prohibited in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, including a buffer zone;
- Drilling would be prohibited within primary aquifers and within 500 feet of their boundaries;
- Surface drilling would be prohibited on state-owned land, including parks, forest areas and wildlife management areas;
- Fracking will be permitted on privately held lands under “rigorous and effective controls”; and
- DEC will issue regulations to codify these recommendations.
DEC’s present recommendations depart from those contained in an earlier 2009 Draft SGEIS, which would have permitted drilling in the New York City and Syracuse drinking water watersheds, and which would have allowed surface drilling for high-volume fracking in primary aquifers and on public forests, wildlife areas, and parkland. In December 2010, then-Governor David Paterson ordered DEC to revise the initial Draft, taking into consideration the voluminous public comments that had been submitted. This order was understood to impose a de facto moratorium on new permits until the issuance of the revised draft.
The import of DEC’s present findings to stakeholders such as upstate residents, downstate residents, municipalities, and industry cannot be fully understood without a thorough review of the revised Draft SGEIS, which is over 900 pages long. As with many comprehensive studies, the devil will be in the details. The revised Draft SGEIS will be posted on DEC’s website on July 8, 2011, and will be open for public comment for 60 days beginning in August. It is expected that another round of extensive public comments will follow.
As of July 1, DEC has posted an Executive Summary of the revised Draft SGEIS and other related information online. This website should contain the entire revised Draft SGEIS by July 8.
Click here for more information about hydraulic fracturing in New York.