June 29, 2015:
New York State Officially Prohibits High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today officially prohibited high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) in New York State by issuing its formal Findings Statement, completing the state’s seven-year review of this activity.

“After years of exhaustive research and examination of the science and facts, prohibiting high-volume hydraulic fracturing is the only reasonable alternative,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “High-volume hydraulic fracturing poses significant adverse impacts to land, air, water, natural resources and potential significant public health impacts that cannot be adequately mitigated. This decision is consistent with DEC’s mission to conserve, improve and protect our state’s natural resources, and to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state.”

The Findings Statement concludes that there are no feasible or prudent alternatives that adequately avoid or minimize adverse environmental impacts and address risks to public health from this activity.

DEC based the Findings Statement on the vast research included in the Final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FSGEIS) released last month. The FSGEIS included consideration of extensive public comment and the state Department of Health’s Public Health Review, which concluded there is considerable uncertainty as to potential health impacts from HVHF and that HVHF should not move forward in New York State.

The Findings Statement is the culmination of the environmental review process to fully evaluate the environmental impacts of this activity. The Findings Statement details the widespread potential impacts from the HVHF process, including impacts to water and air resources, ecosystems and wildlife, community character and public health.

For a copy of the Findings Statement, visit DEC’s website.

December 17, 2014:
High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (HVHF) for Gas from Shale Deposits

 Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration announced that it will issue a legally binding statement that will prohibit HVHF in New York State at this time.  According to the press release from the state:

“The state Department of Health has completed its public health review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) and Acting DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker recommended that high-volume hydraulic fracturing should not move forward in New York State. Dr. Zucker announced his findings and recommendations today at a Cabinet Meeting in Albany.”

“I have considered all of the data and find significant questions and risks to public health which as of yet are unanswered,” said Dr. Zucker. “I think it would be reckless to proceed in New York until more authoritative research is done. I asked myself, ‘would I let my family live in a community with fracking?’ The answer is no. I therefore cannot recommend anyone else’s family to live in such a community either.”

The public health review is contained in a  New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) report.

The debate over allowing the use of this technology in New York State began over 6 years ago when the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) began drafting supplements to the Generic Environmental Impact Statement of 1992 which sets parameters that are applicable statewide for the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) review of oil and gas well permitting.

A Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) provides a comprehensive review of the potential environmental impacts of an activity and how these impacts could be mitigated. The NYSDEC prepared a Supplemental GEIS (SGEIS) to assess issues unique to horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing in shale deposits such as the Marcellus and Utica shales that lie under large portions of the southern tier of New York State.

The SGEIS went through two drafts the first released on September 30, 2009 and the second was released September 7, 2011. Tens of thousands of comments were received on each of these drafts.

According to the DEC announcement:

“For the past six years, DEC has examined the significant environmental impacts that could result from high-volume hydraulic fracturing,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “DEC’s own review identified dozens of potential significant adverse impacts of HVHF. Further, with the exclusion of sensitive natural, cultural and historic resources and the increasing number of towns that have enacted bans and moratoria, the risks substantially outweigh any potential economic benefits of HVHF. Considering the research, public comments, relevant studies, Dr. Zucker’s report and the enormous record DEC has amassed on this issue, I have directed my staff to complete the final SGEIS. Once that is complete, I will prohibit high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York State at this time.”

“DEC will incorporate the findings of the public health review into the Final SGEIS, which will be released with a response to public comments early next year (2014). A minimum of 10 days later, Commissioner Martens will issue the findings statement prohibiting HVHF. This action will conclude the State Environmental Quality Review Act process for HVHF.”

SLPWA filed several FOIL requests with the NYSDOH for information related to how the health assessment study was being carried out. It was not an open process.  Finally, SLPWA filed a lawsuit demanding the release of the documents being used in the review.  Some documents were released, however, the process was fraught with delays which appeared deliberate.  After the December announcement, SLPWA dropped the lawsuit because of other threats to Seneca Lake.

Links for more information:

Marcellus Shale – Appalachian Basin Natural Gas Play: A good summary of the Geology of the Marcellus Shale

NY DEC Marcellus Shale Page