October 29, 2009

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DEC gets an earful on Marcellus shale fracking

LOCH SHELDRAKE - There was standing room only and tensions were high as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation held a public hearing on its proposed generic environmental impact statement for natural gas drilling in Marcellus shale.

The hearing, the only one in this part of the state, was held at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake Wednesday night.

The primary concerns were for the fracturing process, more commonly called fracking that is going to be used and the chemicals involved in the process, which brings the natural gas up to the surface faster. 

Luiz Aragon, Sullivan commissioner of Planning and Environment Management, said that the document, “demonstrates extensive research, thought and consideration for the concerns voiced by the citizens of New York State.”    

Paul Rush, deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection said the subject of gas drilling “was of vital interest to the City of New York.”  The two watersheds, the Catskill and Delaware, where the Marcellus Shale drilling would occur, is in an area that provides water for roughly half the residents of the State of New York.  “The impact of gas drilling is contamination of reservoirs or streams feeding into them, the contamination can possibly create public health risks for millions of people,” Rush said.

Maria Grimaldi, a member of several environmental and conservation groups, said that she once drove through a gas drilling site in New Mexico and that the experience was not a pleasant one.  “I am very concerned about the drilling and the SGEIS study.  My take on it is that it is enabling an industry to operate that is not compatible with protecting our environment.” Grimaldi also called on the DEC to give full disclosure as to the compilation of the SGEIS including “where the information came from and who was consulted” in creating the document.  She also had documentation of an ecosystem having been destroyed on the border of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, by the chemicals used in the fracturing process.

Of all the speakers, the one who elicited the greatest show of emotion and one shout of “that’s a lie” from an audience member was the speaker from the Chesapeake Energy, Scott Rotruck, the vice president of corporate development.    Rotruck stated that the public concern about horizontal drilling was “unrealistic and not a cause for concern.” He feels that the use of the Marcellus Shale would bolster the sagging economy of New York State. But, he said Chesapeake Energy does not intend to drill on the “small amount of acreage that is part of the New York City watershed.”

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