It was the moment anyone who cares about our region’s most divisive issue — gas drilling — was waiting for: last week’s release of a summary of the proposed state regulations for “fracking” the gas-rich Marcellus shale, which sits beneath Sullivan County and much of the Southern Tier.
Folks are still digesting the near-1,000 page document that Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens says “strikes the right balance between protecting our environment, watersheds and drinking water and promoting economic development.”
But it includes bans on drilling in the watersheds of New York City, a sliver of which sits in Sullivan, and Syracuse. Drilling also would be prohibited within aquifers and on state land, although the horizontal drilling method of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” would apparently be allowed thousands of feet beneath that land, and on nearly 85 percent of the Marcellus shale, including most of Sullivan.
Although the complete document was just released Friday — at http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/75370.html — the reactions to the document that could ultimately regulate drilling are pouring in:
A good move
Bill Graby of Callicoon, co-leader of the Sullivan-Delaware Property Owners Association, which wants to lease some 70,000 acres of land for drilling: “A huge step in the right direction. I’ve always known it can be done safely. If all the antis would get off their high horses instead of fighting something that’s going to benefit everybody, we could all work together to make this even safer.”
Added Noel Van Swol of Fremont, Graby’s co-leader: “The … DEC study, which is based on hard science, not ideology, proves that fracking is safe.”
They’re stealing our land
Ramsay Adams, executive director of Youngsville-based Catskill Mountainkeeper, which wants a statewide ban on fracking:
“A road map for stealing our commons — our water, our land, our air. It’s handing over what is ours to an industry that seems to be criminal (referring to New York Times reports that the gas industry overestimated the amount and profitability of gas). For the Cuomo administration to be out in front of this flies in the face of common sense.”
Let’s see how the DRBC reacts
Mike Uretsky, a member of the task force on energy established by the National Petroleum Council at the request of Energy Secretary Steven Chu:
“I’m extraordinarily happy,” said the Pennsylvania resident who’s leased his land for drilling. “This is coming from a guy (Martens) who has an environmental background, who was one of the most influential people in the environmental movement. It’s going to put pressure on the Delaware River Basin Commission (which is developing its own regulations for drilling along the Delaware) not to duplicate their regulations and concentrate on water withdrawals and flow.”
Still no assurances
Bruce Ferguson, Callicoon Center, of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy: “Extracting gas … using today’s technology will necessarily entail injecting hundreds of billions of gallons of unrecoverable toxic fluid beneath our aquifers. The revised draft fails to demonstrate that, over time, these toxic fluids, as well as the gas itself, will not migrate into groundwater and drinking- water supplies. Unless and until New Yorkers can be assured that water supplies will not be compromised, (drilling) should not go forward.”
Saving the watersheds
Joe Martens, DEC Commissioner: “I believe (fracking) can be done safely).”
On why it’s banned in the Syracuse and New York City watersheds, and not the rest of the state: The watersheds where fracking was banned were singled out because they’re the only two unfiltered systems in the state.
“These are very … unique areas, and we’re recognizing them as such with a total ban.”