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Usually when news and reports are issued just before a holiday weekend, they escape close scrutiny and media cycles. But a glaring exception to this rule occurred last week in Albany, NY, when the Department of Environmental Conservation made public highlights of the revised draft of its recommendations on addressing the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. (Officially known as the tongue-twisting Preliminary Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, or SGEIS.)

Cries of surprise and dismay echoed across the state as citizens and advocates realized that the DEC had just moved one big step closer to issuing permits for high-volume, horizontal fracking. For months, citizens and advocates had hoped that the DEC would defer its July 1 deadline and take more time to tackle the many thorny issues involved. But thanks to apparent pressure from Governor Cuomo and other forces, New York became just another state among many to extend a welcoming hand to industry.    

The newly polished SGEIS (rumored to be a hefty 900 pages) will be posted on July 8 on the DEC website. But a coalition of organizations, including Earthworks, lost no time in responding to key problems especially no mention of the cumulative impacts of fracking thousands of wells across the state, failure to treat toxic and potentially radioactive fracking wastewater and solid waste as hazardous waste, and an inadequate 60-day public comment period.

In the coming weeks and months of analysis and action before the DEC’s review process is completed, Earthworks and its allies will make sure the DEC keep its promise to issue stringent regulations for all stages of the gas development process before it issues permits. DEC and Governor Cuomo must demonstrate a commitment to never allow industry to play Russian Roulette with New York’s residents and environment. And it must take the steps necessary to ensure that all New Yorkers across the state are fully protected.

Earthworks will be looking for assurance that more gas development not be allowed in New York unless our four top goals can be met: no water pollution, low emissions, critical no-go zones, and landowner and community consent. The state may have just turned its red light on drilling to yellow but there is much more that can, and must, be done to prevent it from going green without everyone first being safe from harm.

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