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State's Fracking Fast-Track Sidesteps New Yorkers' Concerns about Industrial Gas Drilling

JOINT RELEASE: Clean Water Not Dirty Drilling/New York Water Rangers

ALBANY, NY (09/28/2011)(readMedia)– In response to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) release today of regulations for industrial gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale by means of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” if such drilling is permitted, several environmental groups criticized Governor Cuomo and the DEC for not looking at the true costs of industrial gas drilling, particularly costs related to infrastructure, public health, and the environment that will be borne by communities. The groups are calling this omission Governor Cuomo and the DEC's “Don't Know, Don't Care” policy.

The New York Water Rangers also criticized the Governor for fast-tracking the state's fracking plans by releasing the regulations while the state's environmental review is incomplete.

“Governor Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation are fast-tracking industrial drilling,” said Robert Moore, Executive Director of Environmental Advocates of New York. “The Governor is determined to begin drilling without the benefit of the science and without thoroughly understanding the costs of drilling.” According to Moore, the DEC won't allow the members of the state's fracking advisory panel to question the firm hired to examine fracking's costs to public health, the environment and communities. “While thousands of New Yorkers are trying to make up their minds about fracking, why are Governor Cuomo and the DEC playing hide-the-consultant with the firm hired to study the costs of drilling?”

The New York Water Rangers believe that by releasing regulations prior to the completion of the state's environmental review, the agency is undercutting our environmental laws and limiting New Yorkers' ability to carefully review and weigh in on these important documents. The purpose of the environmental review is to inform the regulations, which will be impossible given the current sequence of events and makes meaningful public input on the draft documents impossible.

“Riverkeeper remains concerned that DEC is rushing the regulatory review process. DEC is proposing only 75 days for a 40-year update of its regulations, which have never addressed high-volume hydraulic fracturing, and asking the public at the same time to comment on its fracking environmental impact statement. By issuing regulations before the environmental review process is complete, DEC is depriving New Yorkers of the opportunity for their comments to be considered in the development of those draft regulations,” said Kate Hudson, Riverkeeper Watershed Program Director. “Moreover, DEC has still not committed to wait to begin permitting until after regulations have been placed into law.”

“Governor Cuomo's Department of Environmental Conservation has set the same tight deadline for public comment on its proposed fracking rules as it has for public review of the 1,500-page environmental impact study. That's just nuts. If the Administration's goal is to short-circuit the public review process on one of the most important environmental issues in recent memory, they're doing a great job,” said Eric A. Goldstein, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council and a member of the Department's fracking advisory panel.

“Governor Cuomo has repeatedly stated that policy decisions on high-volume fracking will be based on science and stringent protections,” said Nadia Steinzor, Earthworks' Marcellus Organizer. “But that requires much more information and time, which the decision to fast-track review of regulations and issuing them doesn't allow for. We can only conclude that Cuomo's actual intent is to drill soon whatever the costs to New York's people and environment.”

“We cannot have a process that sacrifices the health and safety of New Yorkers for gas company profits,” said Sarah Eckel, Legislative and Policy Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “This process should be transparent and comprehensive and not a thinly veiled effort to expedite fracking. This decision and the process will be one of the Governor's landmark and lasting decisions he makes for New York. This will demonstrate to the public if the Governor will live up to his campaign promises by putting public interests ahead of corporate interests.”

The groups continue to comb through the draft regulations released today and the more than 1,500 pages of the SGEIS released earlier this month. The public comment period on the state's fracking documents will run until December 12th. The New York Water Rangers, and thousands of New Yorkers across the state, continue to call for a 90-day extension to the comment period.

To frack a gas well, millions of gallons of water, sand, and toxic chemicals are pumped deep underground at high pressure. This fractures the rock that has trapped the gas for millennia and allows it to escape. From start to finish, gas development that relies on fracking is an industrial process that threatens our water. State after state, from Wyoming to Pennsylvania, has documented its dangers. New York can't afford to put short-term gas profits ahead of the long-term health of our water and our communities.

The New York Water Rangers campaign is supported by a network of organizations working to protect the rights and health of New Yorkers and one of our most precious environmental resources-water-from the dangers of irresponsible, poorly regulated, and under-inspected natural gas exploration and development.

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