You are here

DEC chief: Final fracking report is ‘literally at the printer’


New York is about to take its next step toward a ban on large-scale hydraulic fracturing.

A several-thousand-page document that will lay out the rationale for prohibiting fracking is “being printed as we speak,” state Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens said Wednesday.

That report, known as the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement or SGEIS, has been nearly seven years in the making and will pave the way for Martens to issue an order keeping large-scale fracking from moving forward at the current time.

“As you know, it’s voluminous,” Martens said Wednesday. “It is literally at the printer.”

Martens was asked about the document following a speech he gave at an Earth Day event at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy.

Large-scale fracking—a much-debated technique to help retrieve natural gas out of underground shale formations—has been on pause in New York since 2008, when the DEC first launched its review.

In December, Martens said he would move to prohibit high-volume fracking “at this time” after state Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker issued a report recommending against proceeding, citing concerns about health risks and gaps in science. But in order to formalize the effective fracking ban, the state Department of Environmental Conservation had to complete the SGEIS.

Now, the next step is for the DEC to release a final SGEIS, which Martens said would happen “very shortly.” From there, state law mandates the document must be available for public review for at least 10 days before Martens issues a”findings statement,” the legal document that would enshrine the state’s fracking decision.

The state is working with an outside consultant—Ecology and Environment of Lancaster, Erie County—to help format and print the document, Martens said. The DEC had worked with the major environmental consultant on a previous draft of the SGEIS, which drew criticism from some environmental and good-government organizations because the company counts oil and natural-gas companies among its clients.

Martens declined to discuss the specifics of what will ultimately be in the finding statements. It will likely be carefully dissected by both advocates and opponents of fracking, with the state chapter of the American Petroleum Institute—a gas-industry trade group—previously promising to explore their legal options.

“Stay tuned for the findings statement,” Martens said. “The findings statement is the legal document that we’re going to rely on. So we should wait for that and have the conversation then.”

The state’s move to prohibit large-scale fracking has drawn criticism from the gas industry and business groups and praise from environmental organizations.

Some environmental-minded activists and lawmakers, however, are concerned about what the DEC’s final document will say.

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, an Ithaca Democrat who has been one of the Legislature’s most-vocal opponents of fracking, sent a letter Monday to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, urging him to to ensure fracking will be banned “for the years to come.” She also called on him to open the scope of the document up to public comment before it’s put out to be finalized.

“I feel strongly that public participation is warranted at this critical final juncture so that the SGEIS proceeding can be concluded openly, transparently and with full assurance that all appropriate shale fracking concerns are properly addressed,” Lifton said in a statement.