I trust that you have been well since we last communicated. I write to bring you up to date about my activities and to request your immediate assistance with a Legislator sign-on letter to Governor Cuomo.
Hallelujah: Final Fracking Decision Delayed Yet Again
You will recall that Governor Cuomo suddenly declared on 2/8/12 that a "final decision" would be made "in a couple of months" about permitting shale gas fracking in New York. His emphatic statement caused elation among pro-frackers and despair among environmentalists. It looked like the bitter end was near.
I am thrilled to report that the Governor's decision has reportedly been further delayed by the Revised Draft SGEIS proceeding. With your on-going assistance, NEW YORK'S SHALE GAS FRACKING MORATORIUM is still holding rock-steady against seemingly insurmountable odds
The bottom line is that until DEC fulfills the onerous requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) as well as Executive Order No. 41, Governor Cuomo will have an extremely hard time adopting a Final SGEIS that permits shale gas fracking in New York.
4/23/12 New York Post Article
The New York Post reported that DEC Commissioner Martens said: "We hope over the course of the summer, perhaps we'll complete the process" of reviewing and responding to all 66,700 submitted comments.
Please note that an additional 13,000 comments from the 2009 draft SGEIS also have yet to be reviewed.
Your Help Needed
In short, it is once again clear that DEC has a really long way to go before adopting a Final SGEIS. I implore you to focus on generating maximum pressure to send the woefully incomplete and inadequate Revised Draft SGEIS "back to the drawing board" for yet another do-over. This is clearly the best strategy to safeguard New Yorkers from shale gas extraction hazards.
DEC must fully resolve all of the concerns documented in the Withdraw the Revised Draft SGEIS coalition letter before lifting New York's horizontal fracking moratorium. I write today to spell out how you can help make that happen.
First, get more signatories for the coalition letter. We are nearly up to 23,000. See: http://www.toxicstargeting.com/MarcellusShale/cuomo/coalition_letter/2011
Legislator Sign-on Letter to Governor Cuomo
Most importantly, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton has circulated a critical sign-on letter in the Assembly and the State Senate. It requests that Governor Cuomo resolve six key issues that I will summarize herein. Please contact your representatives and request that they join the letter as signatories. This letter could carry a lot of weight.
The self-explanatory letter is posted for your review at: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/77076301/BarbaraLiftonLetter.pdf
Suffice it to say that resolving the six concerns as part of the SGEIS proceeding would take a really long time and involve a lot of unprecedented work.
Mortgage Lending Requires Environmental Review
The inestimable Ian Urbina recently reported in The New York Times that U. S. Department of Agriculture staff proposed to recommend environmental impact assessments for its mortgage loans pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Ian also reported that the proposal was promptly killed by the head of USDA. That action is not surprising given the President's pro-fracking electioneering. I provide for your review Ian's two pieces, a revealing internal USDA memo and my letter to President Obama about the matter.
Mortgage lending is a critical issue in the fracking debate because it involves the valuation and marketability of real property as well as local tax revenue generation. As you will recall, Toxics Targeting broke this issue on the Capitol Pressroom nearly a year ago.
Since mortgage lending is not addressed in any way by the Revised Draft SGEIS, I wrote to Governor Cuomo to request that he require SEQR review for a wide range of New York State mortgage lending programs.
New York has a very low threshold for requiring comprehensive environmental reviews. According to DEC, "The formal threshold for requiring an EIS [environmental impact statement, not in original] under NEPA is, '.....will (emphasis added) cause an adverse environmental impact', while the threshold under SEQR is, '.....may (emphasis added) cause an adverse environmental impact.'"
LPG Fracking Requires Environmental Review
In a deliberate attempt to skirt New York's horizontal hydrofracturing moratorium, a proposal was recently announced to lease 135,000 acres in Tioga County for shale gas fracturing utilizing Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) instead of water. LPG is toxic, flammable and highly explosive. Approximately 3,300 wells could eventually be drilled on that acreage and billions of gallons of LPG could be utilized as hydraulic fracturing fluid.
LPG horizontal fracturing has neither been the subject of an environmental review pursuant to the 1992 Generic Environmental Impact Statement, the 2012 RD SGEIS nor any individual EIS proceeding. I wrote to Governor Cuomo to request that the moratorium on horizontal hydraulic fracturing be applied equally to LPG fracturing pending SEQR review.
See my LPG news coverage at: http://www.toxicstargeting.com/MarcellusShale
So far this session, only one bill to safeguard New York's environment and public health from shale gas hazards has passed the Assembly. No shale gas bills have passed both houses.
The only other notable shale gas action involved the Governor and the State Senate killing a $100,000.00 budgetary allocation proposed by the Assembly for an independent health investigation.
That joint-effort speaks volumes about the fate of shale gas legislation intended to protect New York. Barring a miracle, all those bills are dead this session.
IN CONCLUSION, THERE IS ONE REASON AND ONE REASON ONLY WHY NEW YORK HAS NOT SUFFERED THE SHALE GAS HAZARDS REPORTED IN OTHER STATES. NO FINAL SGEIS HAS BEEN ADOPTED AND THE FOUR-YEAR SHALE FRACKING MORATORIUM REMAINS IN EFFECT.
Governor Cuomo will ultimately decide if shale gas extraction will be allowed in New York. I believe there is no question that he would like to permit shale gas extraction, but has been thwarted by grassroots, media and regulatory efforts. In order to make sure that he does not permit Marcellus Shale gas extraction without adequate safeguards, he must face sustained, withering and intensifying political pressure.
With that challenge in mind, we must achieve three goals:
1) New York's hydraulic fracking moratorium must be maintained until the 17 critical shortcomings documented in the Withdraw the Revised Draft SGEIS coalition letter are fully resolved by a consensus of local, state and federal government entities as well as all potentially impacted parties;
2) New York must require gas firms to bear the true costs of shale gas extraction by eliminating hazardous waste regulatory exemptions as well as policies that permit gas drilling wastewaters to be a) spread on land for de-icing, dust control and roadbed stabilization, b) reused for gas production purposes and c) dumped into municipal treatment plants without adequate regulatory controls; and
3) A massive natural gas glut recently drove prices to the lowest levels in more than a decade. That glut has been exacerbated by the mildest winter in decades and insufficient gas storage capacity. The effects of that glut must be used to intensify market pressures on gas firms that are not financially viable.
Thanks so much for your help. I will be in touch again shortly.
Onward and upward,