That’s how close a shale gas well can be to a house in New York state – 100 feet. 30.48 meters. Less than the depth of most residential lots. About the distance from your front door to your neighbors’ house across the street. Too damn close. Close enough to crater your mortgage. Cook your homeowner’s insurance. Render your house unsaleable. Poison your water well. Asphyxiate you when you open a window or step outside. Too fracking close. Absolutely the worst gas well setback in the United States of America. The setback has not changed in 40 years. Not even after 4 years and 3 iterations of the DEC’s proposed “BS-GEIS“. It is the best setback the frackers could buy.
About once a week I get an email or a question at a presentation that tells me that “somebody said” that the setback of a gas well from a house in New York was:
- 1,000 feet
- In/not in the dSGEIS
- “Real real far”
- In Fracksylvania
And I have to explain that the dSGEIS is just what the acronym says: a ” draft supplemental generic impact statement” which is not really a set of rules and regulations, but a guideline for the DEC to do anything it fracking well pleases. Meaning it’s the BS-GEIS. The lack of a “rules set” was noted when the DEC was audited by an outside group. What “governs” ( I use that term boldly) the setback of a gas well from a house is either:
1. Your local land use law (You do have a local land use law don’t you ?). A local land use law – any local land use law, even one that allows fracking by zone with local setbacks, is better than the state’s token setbacks. In fact any setback regulation in North America (the US and Canada) is better than New York’s obsolete setback regulations.
Not the BSGEIS. There is nothing in the dSGEIS that alters the setbacks from surface features in the original setback regulations from 1972 and the GEIS, which infamously was never reduced to a complete set of rules and regulations. The BSGEIS has received 80,000 comments, it’s now over 4,000 pages long after three drafts over 4 years, and the setback is still 100 feet from a house in New York state. You probably didn’t comment on the setbacks in the BSGEIS, because the archaic setbacks weren’t mentioned in the dSGEIS. Nor did the DEC suggest any changes to them in their proposed new regulations for horizontal shale wells. So most people have simply missed this, because the DEC has ignored it. Tricky, eh ? The BSGEIS is a mashup of political payoffs, junk science and industry brochures. The dSGEIS review was largely a public relations exercise, not a substantive update of the actual regulations. Why ? Because when it comes to shale gas, New York has no autonomous environmental agency – just a minerals management agency posing as an environmental agency.
Shown below is a copy of the GEIS section that deals with setbacks. GEIS Chapter 17.B.1.b., repeats the original setbacks for vertical wells that are unchanged in 40 years. After all that BSGEIS compost fodder, no new setbacks have been proposed for horizontal shale wells. None.
b. Well Location R e s t r i c t i o n s .
DEC s t a f f check t o ensure t h a t t h e w e l l l o c a t i o n is a t l e a s t :
– 100 f e e t from a p r i v a t e dwelling
– 75 f e e t from t h e t r a v e l e d p a r t of a public road
– 150 f e e t from a public building o r a r e a .
Former DEC staffer Greg Sovas has been telling the public and the legislature that these original 1972 regulations would suffice for horizontal shale gas wells. And in fact, the DEC has not made any changes to the setbacks in the proposed HVHF regulations. Remarkably, one of the few setbacks that has been changed is the reduced setback from a property line, which Chesapeake’s lobbyist dictated to the DEC staff. But the fracking industry has the audacity to complain about the setbacks in New York. . .
The fracking apologists have said “Let the science decide.” How much fracking science do you think is involved in a setback of 100 feet ? Versus the amount of fracking payola ? When asked about the setbacks at a shale gas conference, a former DEC staffer just mumbled until I had to answer the fracking question myself:
You might think that if a house is more that 100′ from my property line, it is “safe” from being fracked. Then you must not have heard of fracking privatized eminent domain, whereby “your protectors” at the DEC can compel you to into participating in a well against your will. Then the frackers drill the well 100′ feet from your kitchen window. Or the split estate, which means you don’t own the mineral rights under your land – somebody else does, somebody that wants to frack ’em. And the frackers drill the well 100′ feet from your bedroom window – because the mineral lease says they can. Then there is the 50′ setback from a stream or the 0′ setback from a pond. All toast under compulsory integration or the spilt estate – which effectively erase any protections from property lines.
Next time some fracking shill, shale charlatan, or gas hole says otherwise, whip out GEIS Chapter 17 or Section 553, which the DEC’s attorneys are going to have to try to defend as soon as they push the final SGEIS out the door – and straight to court. That might be tough, since New York’s setbacks would be illegal anywhere else.
This lack of meaningful protections from the DEC is, of course, a textbook argument for Home Rule. The DEC won’t protect you. The BSGEIS won’t protect you. Cuomo won’t protect you. The frackers won’t protect you. The Environmental Defense Frauds damn sure won’t protect you. Nor will Hizzoner, the fracking hypocrite.
Your town board has to protect land uses in your town. Your house is a “land use.” Land uses are protected by land use ordinances. Any questions ?
See more pictures here : fracking houses