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DEC begins public comment period on draft hydraulic fracturing study

by jmaloni
Mon, Sep 12th 2011 05:30 am

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation opened a more than 90-day public comment period on its revised draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced Sept. 7. In addition, the agency will issue its proposed regulations governing high-volume hydraulic fracturing in early October.

"Throughout this process, DEC's number one priority is to protect the state's drinking water and environment in concert with exploring options to safely and efficiently extract the state's natural gas. This will enable New York's economy to benefit from this resource and the job opportunities that development is expected to bring," Martens said. "We look forward to receiving comments from the public that will help inform the final conditions for high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York state. The proposed environmental mitigation measures and the regulations that codify those measures go hand in hand. It makes sense to move forward with them together and hold simultaneous public comment periods and hearings."

The public comment period for the revised draft SGEIS began Sept. 7 and concludes Dec. 12. The public comment period for the regulations will begin in early October and will run concurrently with the SGEIS public comment period. DEC plans to hold four public hearings during the comment period for the SGEIS and regulations in November. The hearings will be held in counties within the Marcellus Shale region, as well as New York City. Exact dates and locations will be released in early October.

Under the public comment schedule, the public will have more than 150 days to review the proposed environmental mitigation measures in the draft SGEIS, which were released July 1, and more than 90 days to review the SGEIS sections and mitigation measures addressing socioeconomic, community character, visual, noise and transportation impacts. Once the comment period is complete, DEC will review the comments on the draft SGEIS and proposed regulations and prepare responses to be released with the final SGEIS. No permits for high-volume hydraulic fracturing will be issued until the SGEIS is finalized and DEC issues the required Findings Statement.

Comments can be submitted by Web at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/76838.html or by mail to: Attn: dSGEIS Comments, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233.

Comments should focus on changes in the 2011 revised draft SGEIS. Comments previously submitted on the 2009 draft will be considered in the final SGEIS and do not need to be resubmitted.

DEC reported the draft socio-economic analysis of the impacts associated with high-volume hydraulic fracturing activities found that when the well construction rate is at its maximum level, total direct employment could reach 6,198 full-time equivalent workers under a low-development scenario and 24,795 FTE workers under the average-development scenario. These jobs are estimated to bring $419.6 million to $1.7 billion in earnings for the workers.

Construction jobs account for 4,408 to 17,634 FTE positions. These employment figures correspond to the annual construction of 413 horizontal and vertical wells under the low-development scenario and 1,652 horizontal and vertical wells under the average-development scenario. At the peak of development, operational jobs are expected to range from 1,790 FTE workers under the low-development scenario to 7,161 FTE workers under the average-development scenario.

The proposed drilling also could generate additional indirect employment in other sectors of the economy. Indirect employment is expected to range from 7,293 FTE workers under the low-development scenario to an additional 29,174 FTE workers under the average-development scenario with an additional $202.3 million and $809.2 million in earnings.

"As a proponent of safe drilling in the Marcellus Shale, I'm very encouraged by the draft SGEIS study released today," commented State Sen. George Maziarz, R, 62nd District, Newfane.

"The DEC appears to be making substantial efforts to make sure that all impacts of the hydrofracking process are taken into account, and that all of the advocates on both sides of the issue have a greater opportunity to make their voices heard. The public hearing process should favor a measured, factual, and reasoned discussion - not an exchange of sound bytes and hysterics. The issue is far too important to our future.

"This report, along with the concurrent development of the appropriate DEC regulations, will lead to the start of drilling in a safe manner that will be a boon to the upstate economy and our energy supply. As the report shows, hydrofracking will create as many as 25,000 full-time jobs with a total payroll of nearly $2 billion. The new infusion of natural gas will also make our state more energy independent and help lower energy costs.

"I commend Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Martens for pushing this forward as a major priority for New York."

The revised draft SGEIS proposes new mitigation measures to address impacts to communities and local governments. A significant mitigation measure is to limit simultaneous construction of well pads and wells in proximity to each other. DEC will consider this measure in consultation with local governments to lessen cumulative impacts. This approach would help mitigate impacts on local community character, as well as cumulative noise, visual and traffic impacts.

Additional proposed mitigation measures include:

•Traffic: Require drillers to produce detailed transportation plans outlining the proposed number of trucks, truck routes and times of day of truck operations, and assessing the conditions of those roads;

 •Noise: Site-specific measures could include setbacks, site layout design that takes advantage of topography, noise barriers and special permit conditions; and

 •Visual: Site-specific measures could include screening, relocation, camouflage or disguise, using non-reflective materials and controlling off-site migration of lighting.

To learn more about the revised draft SGEIS' proposed mitigation measures, visit: The full draft SGEIS: http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/75370.html; fact sheet on socio-economic impacts: http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/76878.html; fact sheet on traffic, cumulative, visual and noise: http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/76873.html.

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