July 23, 2008

Is the sky falling?

Listen to this.


Feel free to ask Mr. Patterson to hold off on signing the bill, if that is how you feel...though it may be too late already.

How do I feel?


I don't know. I don't know exactly what the bill entails. My understanding is that this so-called "streamlining" is more of a combination of an update to NYS policies to include/allow for newer drilling technologies and a "standardization" of the process to allow for a more effecient review of applications. Both of these could be very good things.


Still, there are many remaining issues that have not been specifically and satisfactoraly addressed in any media that I have had the chance to look at:


-Surface water usage
There are in fact safegards in place to protect against excessive surface water withdrawls...however, whether the bill itself addresses how these safegards apply to gas well applications, I do not know


-Surface water contamination
Same deal


-Groundwater contamination via hydrofracking
Hydrofracking is a buzz word. Hydrofracking is not bad. Hydrofracking may have been used to develop your residential water supply well. However, to my knowledge, hydrofracking for petroleum development is exempted from coverage under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This is obviously not good. DEC has assured us that drilling and fracking fluids will be investigated before any permits are issued (and I, for one, having dealt with the Minerals dept) believe them. Also, keep in mind that the process will be used on formations 5,000-9,000' below the surface, much farther than any domestic water wells. However, that does not mean the bill does not require more examination.


Honestly, I wish I had more time to look at the issues more in-depth. There are some big issues out there still. A couple other points I would like to make:


This bill has already passed the legislature.


NYSDEC has about as good a track record as you can expect in overseeing potential environmental threats (perfect by no means, but far better, and more reasonable, than anywhere else I have seen in this country).


NYCDEP has a big interest in this as well (surface water removals and contamination)...if you think they will allow anything they perceive as a threat to their drinking water to occur, you are sorely mistaken.


As with any sensitive issue, I think caution is prudent, but I would make sure to include caution in reacting to inflammatory "enviro-nut" remarks too. Key to practial environmentalism is responsible development of available resources. If you're worried this bill is irresponsible, make your voice heard. I for one am not going to play chicken little. I will be watching it like a hawk though.

I was hoping to put a little more into this, but the timing of it all has limited me a bit, and I felt I had to get something out today.

Full disclosure - in case you missed this, I work for an environmental consulting firm outside of Albany, NY, and deal extensively with a slightly different part of the minerals industry and NYSDEC Minerals department personnel. I also have experience working with drilling crews, though never (yet) for petroleum.

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