Marcellus scope complete
Comments prompt DEC to widen study
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ALBANY, NY — Comments from officials, organizations and citizens alike about natural gas drilling have made a difference. At least that’s the claim of the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
In preparing a scope document, which essentially serves as a roadmap that the DEC will use in its study of extracting gas from the Marcellus Shale, the agency conducted six hearings in the Catskills and the Southern Tier. It received a total of 188 verbal statements and over 3,770 written statements that came by fax, letter and email. Those who offered comment included representatives of federal, state and local government agencies, environmental groups, industry, other organizations and individuals.
Before reviewing the comments, according to the DEC, the agency had intended to focus on water and wastewater management as the most important areas for study in terms of environmental impacts. The people who commented were concerned about these areas, but they also expressed concerns about a wide array of issues. Therefore, the DEC expanded the scope of the study to include examination of the following:
• Effectiveness of regulations in other oil and gas producing states where high-volume hydraulic fracturing of shale is used.
• Setbacks for multi-well sites and high-volume hydraulic fracturing operations from private dwellings or buildings, surface water bodies and private water wells.
• Potential requirements for private water well sampling, testing and monitoring by gas well operators.
• Feasibility of requiring the use of green or non-chemical fracturing technology.
• Mechanisms to require notification, review and department approval of re-fracturing operations.
• Specific air quality topics.
Still, some advocates believe the final scope does not go far enough. Tom Wilinsky, a lawyer and a member of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, said the DEC was “selective” in deciding what topics to study. He said, “From what I can see, they’re not really looking at the broad cumulative effects” of so many wells in one area as is envisioned for the Marcellus Shale.
“I don’t think they’re doing a real full economic analysis, either, in terms of job creation and whether the jobs that are created will be filled by people who actually live in the area versus shipping people in to work the wells and the drilling apparatus, and our understanding is that’s what happens.”
Now that the scope is completed, the DEC will begin the environmental study to create a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS). A draft of the SGEIS is expected to be completed sometime this spring, after which the public will again be invited to comment.