Organizations believe hydrofracking regulation is rushed

Riverkeeper opposed to state’s process

Photo courtesy: Riverkeeper, http://www.riverkeeper.org


Although hydrofracking has proven to be a controversial issue, New York State is undergoing the process to legalize it. As a result, the state must regulate the new industry. The way in which New York is engaging in this process is being criticized and opposed by a number of environmental organizations. One such group is Riverkeeper; founded in 1966,  Riverkeeper advocates for clean water in New York City.

While hydrofracking itself is controversial, the process under which New York is considering it has also proven contentious. On July 1, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sent a memo to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) ordering them to release this draft, even though it was incomplete. “That draft was not available for public comment and it was missing the community and economic impact sections,” noted Mackenzie Schoonmaker, a staff attorney at Riverkeeper. On Sept. 7, the DEC released a fully revised Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) for public comment, which will end on Dec. 12. In the midst of this controversy, the DEC has also decided to create hydrofracking regulations. The DEC didn’t anticipate having to release these regulations on Sept. 28. Even though environmental groups wanted them to release the regulations, they did not want them released until after the SGEIS was complete. The comment period for these regulations will also end on Dec. 12.

They’ve identified the problem as: “the state’s rush to frack.” The organization has used this name because of the short public comment period (96 days) on a 1600 page document, and because of the concurrent 75-day comment period on the draft regulations. Schoonmaker said, “[Riverkeeper believes that] by putting out the regulations before the Environmental Impact Statement is complete we feel that DEC is really robbing the public of an opportunity to have their comments on the Environmental Impact Statement and inform the regulations.” In the July 1 version of the SGEIS, the DEC acknowledged that this is a problem. Schoonmaker stated, “They essentially deleted this language entirely from the September version and decided they were taking the all at once approach instead.” She continued, “In addition to not being what the law intended, it’s problematic because it puts a pretty heavy burden on the public, [which] is now forced to comment on the Environmental Impact Statement and regulations, which are lengthy documents, at the same time.”

Schoonmaker summed up the organization’s position on hydrofracking, “Riverkeeper’s position is we’re demanding fracking regulations that are promulgated the proper way that is after the SGEIS is finalized. We want [the DEC] to fully prevent any potential harm to human health and the environment. And [we] are prepared to stop any fracking before such regulations are [in place] and backed by regulatory enforcement personnel.”