State receives 40K fracking comments
FINGER LAKES—After five months and two extensions, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has collected over 40,000 comments on its draft rules for allowing hydraulic fracturing.
The final deadline for the public to comment was Jan. 11. Lisa King, press office worker for the DEC, said the state is now “preparing responses to the 13,000 comments that were received during the first comment period and the tens of thousands we have received during this comment period.” She said the state expects to have more than 40,000 comments because there are still boxes of uncounted submissions.
She explained the compilation of those responses will be included with the final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement and the final regulations. King added comments will be grouped by similar topics and that a response will be prepared for each topic. The compilation will be called the Responsiveness Summary.
“Once we review these comments, we will make any necessary changes to the documents. We expect the final documents to be released in 2012,” said King. “If the final documents determine high-volume hydraulic fracturing could move forward in New York, we could begin to review permit applications after the final SGEIS is released.”
“There has been an unprecedented response to this issue with tens of thousands of comments submitted. All comments are being carefully considered as we develop the final rules and conditions for high-volume hydraulic fracturing. In addition, the final documents will include responses to the comments in responsiveness summaries,” said DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens.
On the day of the deadline, the Environmental Protection Agency also supplied comments to the proposed regulations, ranging from concerns about drinking water being contaminated to where drilling companies should store documents at drill sites.
The EPA says any water “associated with production, field exploration, drilling, well completion or well treatment” should be prohibited from being discharged into navigable waters. It adds wastewater from onshore oil and gas extraction, including production brine, should not allowed for spreading on roads. As part of a focus on wastewater, the EPA said companies should include wetlands in the topographical maps required for permits. The agency also suggested when testing water and wells before drilling starts, the homeowner should be able to choose who does it and at the cost of the drilling company.
Over all, the EPA said that the DEC should establish a Geographic Information System-based display that not only indicates the locations of permitted wells but also the stage of the hydraulic fracturing operation for each well on the pad. The organization adds this database should be updated at least monthly. The Geographic Information System display should also show public water supply wells and intakes.
Many area residents and groups have come out against the drilling process citing concerns about damage to the tourism and agriculture sectors and the possible contamination of groundwater. Numerous events have been held across the area where opponents of drilling have spoken out against it. Some towns, including Barrington and Jerusalem, have passed moratoriums on hydrofracking.