Here is the breakdown of who helped gather the 200,000 responses. Plus thousands more from individuals, organizations and elected officials. To put this in perspective – this is over 300 times the number of responses the DEC got on the Sept. 2011 draft of the proposed drilling regulations. And 3 X the number of responses they received on the environmental regulations, the dSGEIS.
Citizens Action New York: 1844
Food and Water Watch: 15,333
Catskill Citizens: 23,924
Sierra Club: 4600
Working Families Party: 4000
Artists Against Fracking (Causes): 21,921
Artists Against Fracking (web): 425
In hand: 2107
New Yorkers Against Fracking create your own: 1054
New Yorkers Against Fracking simple: 1188
Center for Biological Diversity: 3350
Earth Justice: 3602
Conspicuously absent : the Environmental Defense Frauds, who were bought off.
Plus thousands of hits to the SourceWatch site. If you thought there was something peculiar about the DEC proposing drilling regulations without holding a public hearing – you were right, that was illegal – along with several other procedural and technical errors flagged by Team Slottje.
Activists attack fracking plan with 200K comments on final day
As of Monday, the DEC had received 1,373 comments, said Emily DeSantis, a spokeswoman for the agency. Today’s special delivery capped off a week of protests that served as a political show of force by both grass roots and institutional fracking opponents, lead by activists well versed in the procedural, political, and scientific aspects of the hotly debated issue. On Monday, Climate Change headliner Bill McKibben spoke on the hazards of fossil fuel extraction and consumption and global warming in front of a sold-out crowd in The Egg, a 1,500-seat performing arts venue in Rockefeller Plaza. On Tuesday, more than 1,500 chanting protesters with signs and banners crammed a quarter-mile stretch of the plaza’s underground concourse, which connects the state Capitol and Legislative Office Building to the convention center where governor Cuomo delivered his State of the State address. The demonstration included an appearance and performance by 93-year-old folk legend Pete Seeger.
Today, the comments were delivered to the DEC with a delegation that included Sandra Steingraber, a biologist, activist and author who has been tutoring followers on the technical aspects of the regulations and encouraging them to respond, and Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon, who are among celebrities who have served as figureheads for the movement.
While there is bound to be a percentage of comments that are redundant or irrelevant, the agency will still have to read them, sort them, and respond appropriately by Feb. 27. That means that staffers will have to read and sort some 4,000 comments a day. That’s 400 an hour, six a minute, and one every 10 seconds. That’s assuming a 70-hour workweek with no breaks to answer the phone, eat or go to the bathroom. And then there are the ones that will require thoughtful analysis and perhaps, if taken in good faith, warrant change to the draft document. In addition to the boxes of comments, the agency will have to respond to “some very detailed technical comments” from environmental groups, including the National Resource Defense Council, Earthjustice, Riverkeeper, Catskill Mountainkeeper, and Sierra Club being submitted this afternoon, said Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with Earth Justice.
“Failure to comply with these requirements is grounds for legal challenge,” Goldberg said. The sheer volume of responses will pose a significant logistical problem for the agency, which faces a Feb. 27 deadline to respond to all of them before finalizing regulations. The agency issued the draft regulations on Nov. 29 to qualify for a 90-day extension to keep the rule making process from expiring. By law, the agency also had to allow a 30-day period — from Dec. 12 until today — for public comment. If the regulations are not finalized by Feb. 27, the agency will have to restart the rule making process and reopen it for public comment.
The regulations, however, are just one piece of New York’s monumental and unprecedented policy overhaul to try to come to terms with shale gas development. The regulations represent the battle of today. A larger and more critical piece, and surely to become the battle of tomorrow, is a review of environmental and health impacts on which the regulations are based. That review, called the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS), has been in draft form since 2008 and there is no deadline for its completion. In theory, the state could begin issuing permits for shale development after the final version of the SGEIS is released, even if the regulations are not finalized.
That also would provoke an all out effort, including lawsuits, by the coalition of groups leading the anti-fracking campaign who have faulted the process every step of the way. A salient complaint is that the regulations were issued prior to the final SGEIS on which they were based, forcing the public to evaluate regulations without access to the SGEIS and relevant health and environmental considerations.
In response to a request from leaders of environmental groups, and in anticipation of law suits, Martens announced last fall that the state was hiring outside consultants to review the work of the DEC to ensure that it had sufficiently accounted for public health impacts of fracking. Like the final SGEIS, the scope and results of that review have not been made public.
Even as the regulations are being developed, Cuomo’s administration has indicated through prepared statements that it is undecided on whether it will allow shale gas development. It is a subject that Cuomo rarely addresses publically. He did not mention it in this week’s State of the State address, even though fracking represents the biggest environmental policy fight in the state’s recent history.
John Campbell, Gannett’s Albany reporter, reported today that if DEC officials intend to finalize the regulations by Feb. 27, administrative law requires them to release the final SGEIS (which includes a summary of the health assessment) at least 10 days prior. A mid-February release of the SGEIS would be a clear sign that the agency intends to push forward with its plan to open New York of shale gas development. That would be a clear victory for those who have been supporting development for economic reasons. If the agency lets that window pass, it would signal the opposite.
Fremont Center, NY Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, a grassroots organization that doesn’t have a single paid staff member, or even an office, once again proved to be “the little engine that could.” In a drive begun the day after Christmas, it collected 23,924 written comments critical of New York State’s draft fracking regulations. “This has been a team effort.” said Catskill Citizens member Jill Wiener. “Stop the Frack Attack, Frack Action, Gasland and many others were instrumental in expanding our reach by promoting our Action Alert”.
To encourage public comments, Catskill Citizens created sample letters that could be personalized before submission to the Department of Environmental Conservation – the department responsible for the proposed High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Regulations. Each letter was printed and sealed in a separate envelope for hand delivery to the DEC. Catskill Citizen Tom Wilinsky, who took on the daunting task of formatting each and every letter for printing, admitted, “I was delighted with the overwhelming public response, but I have to admit I was relieved when the Public Comment period drew to a close.”
The growing opposition to fracking in New York State can be seen in the ever increasing number of comments submitted to the DEC. In 2009, a draft version of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement elicited 14,000 comments. Three years later a revised draft SGEIS received more than 65,000 mostly negative comments, including more than 10,000 submitted by Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy. This time around the DEC can expect more than 2000,000 comments criticizing its proposed fracking regulations.
Get those comments in ! Online or postmarked snail mail by 5 today.
A guide on how to respond to New York’s fracking regulations is on SourceWatch.
Short URL – http://tinyurl.com/FrackingRegulations
Here are examples of some snail mail responses to use as guides.
Snail must be postmarked by 5 PM Friday January 11th
Quicker to submit comments online –
To the NY Assembly Hearing on January 10th
On the lack of protections for landowners and the general public
On air pollution – http://www.scribd.com/doc/117440914/Fracking-Air-Pollution
On the lack of protections for property rights –
On lack of protections from shale gas industrial infrastructure
Most New York aquifers are unprotected
On fracking state lakes, forests and parks
On frack fluids and non-disclosure of fracking chemicals
The DEC fails to cite any science as the basis for the proposed regulations
The DEC thinks it’s supposed to promote fracking, not regulate it
DEC does not follow the state’s declared policy on environmental conservation :
§ 1-0101. Declaration of policy. 1. The quality of our environment is fundamental to our concern for the quality of life. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the State of New York to conserve, improve and protect its natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well being. 2. It shall further be the policy of the state to improve and coordinate the environmental plans, functions, powers and programs of the state, in cooperation with the federal government, regions, local governments, other public and private organizations and the concerned individual, and to develop and manage the basic resources of water, land, and air to the end that the state may fulfill its responsibility as trustee of the environment for the present and future generations. 3. It shall further be the policy of the state to foster, promote, create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can thrive in harmony with each other, and achieve social, economic and technological progress for present and future generations by: a. Assuring surroundings which are healthful and aesthetically pleasing; b. Guaranteeing that the widest range of beneficial uses of the environment is attained without risk to health or safety, unnecessary degradation or other undesirable or unintended consequences; c. Promoting patterns of development and technology which minimize adverse impact on the environment; d. Preserving the unique qualities of special resources such as the Adirondack and Catskill forest preserves; e. Providing that care is taken for the air, water and other resources that are shared with the other states of the United States and with Canada in the manner of a good neighbor.
In order to understand how to respond to the proposed drilling regulations, it’s important to understand what they are: a legal document that addresses drilling regulations. They are not a comprehensive set of environmental regulations – that is the SGEIS, which missed its deadline on November 29th – when these drilling regulations were pushed out the door – ready or not, but the DEC. Fewer than 700 responses were received on the September 2011 draft of these regs., and many of those comments were by the frackers that drafted them in the first place. That needs to change, you need to respond to these regs. since, absent a land use ordinance in your town, they may govern where a well can be drilled – which is just about anywhere. Read on.
To understand who’s behind the proposed drilling regulations and to inform your responses to them, it would help to read them from the point of view of who they were written for and who wrote them. That’s right, you have to think like a fracking landman and a fracking lobbyist. What would they want in New York’s fracking regulations ? As few impediments as possibile. Meaning, as few restrictions on where wells can be drilled – which equates to as few protections for surface uses, property lines and water sources as possible. That is in fact what these drilling regulations achieve – they eliminate gas well setbacks from property lines and reduce the number of land uses and water bodies protected from drilling down to literally a handful of 5, the only ones specifically listed in Section 560.4.
If a surface use or water body is not listed in Section 560.4, it is not probably not protected. Mentioning it elsewhere in the regulations or in the SGEIS or SPEDES will not suffice – unless it is covered by a carve-out in the SGEIS. If it is not listed in 560.4, it is not adequately protected from HVHF wells. It’s DEC double talk.
(a) No well pad or portion of a well pad may be located:
(1) within 500 feet from a residential water well, domestic supply spring or water well or spring used as a water supply for livestock or crops;
Note that no other water source is mentioned here. Not rivers, streams, ponds, or lakes. No other water bodies have specific protections in the regulations – with three exceptions shown below as (3), (4), and (5). Note also that there is no scientific evidence to indicate that a 500 foot setback will be sufficient to keep a water well or spring from being gassed.
“(2) within 500 feet from an inhabited dwelling”
Five hundred feet is insufficient to protect a residence from the negative impacts of a HVHF well. The regulations themselves provide some useful scenarios of why 500 feet is inadequate. For instance, under 556.2 (b) a HVHF may be vented for up to 120 hours – 5 days. That is more than enough time to gas whatever or whoever is 500 feet downwind of the drilling site. The proposed setbacks are at the low end of the range in the US. Horizontal fracking causes ‘micro-quakes’ which can easily damage foundations within 500 feet of the well.
“Dwelling” is not defined in the regulations or the ECL, but is synonymous with “residence.” “Inhabited” is not defined in the regulations, but clearly a house or apartment building under construction or remodeling is not “inhabited.” “Inhabited dwellings” does not include hospitals, schools, warehouses, barns, factories, stores, daycare centers, parks, gas stations, power plants, propane storage tanks, or offices – none of which are designated as protected uses under the proposed regulations.
“or place of assembly;”
“Place of assembly” is not defined in the regulations or the ECL. But a “place of assembly” is usually defined as a public auditorium, theater, church, restaurant, etc. Which means, there is no specific gas well setback in the regulations from an office building, hospital, grocery store, school yard, playing field, public park, etc. Which means that a HVHF shale well can be drilled next to any of them, without a setback – per 560.4.
Or drill next to them and then under them. There are no setback from property lines. The “spacing unit” setbacks in Section 553 are for subterranean – mineral– rights, not surface rights. So if the the surface owner does not own the mineral rights, the well setback for the spacing unit could be on their property. Their are no protections if the surface owner was pushed into the well under Compulsory Integration
The DEC may claim that “we would never allow a well to be drilled next to a hospital (or bank or warehouse). If so, then they should have no problem naming those uses in 560.4. Should they ?
“(3) within a primary aquifer and a 500-foot buffer from the boundary of a primary aquifer;”
Five hundred feet is close enough to gas most aquifers. There is no setback for Principal Aquifers, which much of Upstate relies on for drinking water. which provide drinking water for most of Upstate. Nor is there any “science” involved in this distinction between principal and primary aquifers, other than political science.
“(4) within a 100-year floodplain; and”
After Irene and Sandy, a “100 year floodplain” ain’t what it used to be. The 100 year floodplain needs to be updated in New York state before any HVHF are issued.
“(5) within 2,000 feet of any public water supply (municipal or otherwise, or the boundaries of any public water supply reservoir, natural lake or man-made impoundment (except engineered impoundments constructed for fresh water storage associated with fracturing operations).”
The setback does not preclude a HVHF well from being drilled under any of these water sources. There are no setbacks for any other bodies of water – a lake, river, or stream – all of which can be drilled next to and drilled under. Or a wetland – which is not a listed protected area. Unless a water body is named in 560.4, they do not have the protections afforded the water bodies that are named.
“(b) All distances noted above are measured from the closest edge of the well pad.”
“(c) The department may permit reasonable well location variances to the setback requirements in sections 560.4(a) (1), 560.4(a) (2) and 750-3.3 (a)(6) of this Title.”
Meaning, the Department of Mineral Resources can reduce or waive any of the 560.4 setbacks if the price is right. Which won’t be necessary for school yards, factories, hospitals, rivers, ponds, wetlands, barns, organic farms, vineyards, or daycare centers. Because the setbacks for all of those uses and water sources is already zero.
The regulations are a legal document, crafted by the DEC’s lawyers, primarily to facilitate fracking by minimizing impediments in the form of specific protections. Would help to keep that big picture in mind when you respond to the regulations. If a well is close enough to a land use or water source for you to fret about “water testing” or “disclosure of frack fluids” or “the number of casings used”, then it is too fracking close – and a specific protection is called for in 560.4.