October 6, 2008: Press & Sun-Bulletin, NY State to Publish Document of Gas Drilling Review Process

State to publish document on gas-drilling review process

By Tom Wilber • Press & Sun-Bulletin • October 6, 2008

 

The public will get its first look at how the state plans to proceed with a review of the environmental impact of natural gas drilling with the release of an outline scheduled for today.

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The draft document will provide a blueprint for the public process needed to update environmental regulations governing natural gas exploration. The review comes as energy companies lease land throughout the area to tap the Marcellus Shale.

Unlike relatively small vertical wells used to draw natural gas from other geological formations in the Southern Tier, drillers will rely on new technology to drill horizontally through bedrock and fracture it with water and chemical additives. The process, called hydro-fracturing or frac’ing, requires millions of gallons of water for each well and can produce similar amounts of waste.

The prospects have raised questions and concerns about how waste from the drilling process will be handled and disposed of, and where water will come from, what chemicals are used in the process, and how they are stored.

It’s been more than 16 years since a review for gas-drilling impacts was completed under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

The public will get its chance to comment on the process during a series of administrative hearings, including one scheduled at Broome Community College in mid November. The time and exact location are pending, said Yancey Roy, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

"Everybody who has something to say will have the opportunity to be heard," said Stuart Gruskin, DEC executive assistant commissioner.

The process is to get the public’s insight on what should be included in the environmental review — assessing impacts on water or air, for example. But it is not intended to debate the merits of gas drilling, Gruskin added. "That doesn’t have a place in our regulations," he said.

The document is to be released sometime today on the DEC’s Web site, www.dec.ny. gov. The state has ceased issuing permits until after the review is completed, which is on schedule for next spring, Gruskin said.

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