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BY DAVID FALCHEK (STAFF WRITER) in The Times-Tribune.com. Published: September 21, 2012

The mayor of the nation's biggest city has teamed up with the inventor of hydraulic fracturing to establish a new set of gas industry best practices that some feel will increase public confidence.

The philanthropic arm of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the foundation created by fracking pioneer George P. Mitchell have enlisted the Environmental Defense Foundation to create Regional Centers for Excellence. A panel of representatives from the industry discussed the initiative and how it may change gas exploration and the public perception at the Marcellus Shale Coalition Shale Gas Insight conference in Philadelphia on Friday.

The effort is backed by $6 million from the Bloomberg Foundation and $400,000 from Mr. Mitchell's foundation to establish the centers in the nation's major shale gas plays with a goal of bringing more stakeholders to the table.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition will be a collaborator along with civic leaders, environmental groups and others. The best practices will be audited by experts from outside the industry, stressed Mark Brownstein, chief counsel of the Environmental Defense Fund.

"I want technically competent people from outside the four squares of the industry so we can be sure this is not groupthink," he said. "There are folks on the inside who think (the American Petroleum Institute) best practices has all this covered. That is not right, because API is by and for the industry."

EDF wants to secure strong rules in 15 states, including Pennsylvania and New York, with the goal of better industry transparency and water management along with improving well integrity and limiting methane emission. The centers would examine ways to minimize impact of drilling pads and pipelines on land and roads.

Michael Krancer, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the initiative needs to be careful not to ask gas drillers to change their operations based on a stakeholders review, which he compared to a passenger telling a pilot how to fly the plane.

Kathleen McGinty of Weston Solutions Inc., a former secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said "transparency allays what could become ugly fears."

In the end, a sound process and industry adoption will go far in improving the industry's image among skeptics, Mr. Brownstein said. The industry, he fears, underestimates the resistance to drilling and fracking in some parts of the country.

"If you step outside your industry you will find a tremendous amount of skepticism," he said. "This is driven by the thought that neither regulators nor the industry have their arms around this."

Jim Willis on health study in Marcellus News 9/24/2012

On Friday, MDN told you about the latest development in the ongoing Greek tragedy called the New York State moratorium on fracking (see this MDN story). Our take was that Joe Martens’ latest announcement that he has asked NYS Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to conduct a “health impact analysis” of hydraulic fracturing before the DEC will release new drilling rules was a bad sign that fracking in New York will be seriously delayed yet again—well into 2013.
However, landowner groups, led by the Joint Landowner Coalition of New York (the “JLCNY,” representing over 77,000 individual landowners) don’t see it the same way. They believe the path Martens chose in having Nirav Shah do a limited review and not a wide ranging so-called “independent” review—something being pushed by anti-drillers—means the review will not take long and will do a lot to address public concerns over the practice of fracking. The JLCNY supports Martens’ decision.

We’ve also noticed since the news broke that many anti-drilling groups are not happy with Martens, so it seems that perhaps MDN’s initial call on this one was not so accurate. Instead of a fox in the henhouse, the JLCNY and Joe’s enviro buddies think he’s crazy like a fox (meaning he’s cunningly outfoxed everyone). Here’s what the JLCNY said in a press release last Friday:
The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York (JLCNY) welcomed the decision by the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to reject calls for an independent health study.  The DEC has been studying the impacts of natural gas development using high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing for nearly four years. Governor Cuomo has repeatedly said the final decision would be based on science and facts and that a decision on guidelines would be coming soon.
“The outright rejection by the DEC of a delay tactic sought by special interests harboring extreme views opposing any natural gas development is good news,”said Dan Fitzsimmons, president of the JLCNY, representing over 77,000 New York landowners.  “This position renews our faith that the long stated intentions of the Governor to lead, based on the facts will prevail even while biased groups recycle myths and distortions about natural gas development.  As people who would host this activity on our land, we have investigated the practices and participated for years in recommending safeguards that will allow us to utilize our resources and protect our land, air and water. The State has the expertise to properly regulate this industry.  These outright hostile attacks by special interest groups must be refused and the final guidelines issued, demonstrating that New York is open for business.”
“This is the right decision,”said Brian Conover, president of the Central New York Landowners Coalition (CNY), the JLCNY’s largest coalition, representing over 215,000 acres.  “The next step is to ensure that the review the DEC initiates is done expeditiously and is mindful of the long-term delays we have experienced that have cost us dearly – both as a state and as individuals. We cannot afford to sacrifice tens of thousands of jobs that represent the survival of our region’s economy.  Governor Cuomo has no greater opportunity to create new jobs and economic prosperity than by issuing clear statewide natural gas development rules.  Even leaders as varied as President Obama, Governor Romney and Mayor Bloomberg recognize that natural gas development is a vital component to our energy and economic future and benefits our environment.”(1)
How did we got to the point of requiring a health impact review? Martens held secret meetings with environmentalist groups who pushed him hard to have an independent health review done—something they were hoping would a) further delay fracking, and b) hopefully support an outright ban. Martens may have done an end-run around them:
The state’s surprise announcement Thursday to delay a decision on hydrofracking and further assess its health impacts came after months of wrangling with environmental groups over the direction of New York’s four-year-long regulatory review, e-mails and meeting records show.
The records obtained by Gannett’s Albany Bureau show that several organizations have been privately pushing the Department of Environmental Conservation and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office to take a broader look at the potential health impacts of hydrofracking. In particular, the groups wanted the state to assign an independent group to do the work.
The discussions with various environmental groups continued through late August. They were invited to a private meeting with DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens and state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah, according to several in attendance. The groups, including Environmental Advocates of New York, NRDC and the Environmental Defense Fund, were invited to share their thoughts on the possibility of a hydrofracking health assessment.
The outcome of the behind-the-scenes discussions was the DEC announcing Thursday that it would have the state’s health commissioner and outside experts assess the state’s review of hydrofracking.(2)
The reaction from the anti-drilling side was mixed, with most decrying Martens’ decision:
There were mixed reviews to the state’s latest move. Environmental groups were split; some praised the decision, while others were concerned about the independence of the process.
“While we respect the ideal of government being an independent arbiter, that simply is not how our world works,” said David VanLuven, director of Environment New York. “No report, no conclusion and no recommendation comes out of state agencies without first being reviewed, edited and sometimes rejected by the governor’s office.”
Still, Thursday’s announcement — in which Martens dismissed requests from environmental and medical groups to hire an outside, nongovernmental group to perform a health assessment — caught both sides of the hydrofracking debate by surprise.
The announcement was made at about 5 p.m., days after Gannett’s Albany Bureau received records of the health-related meetings and after the agency was questioned by several news organizations.(2)
Exactly how will the health department go about its study and review? And, is the review possibly already done? We don’t know:
As of Friday evening, the DEC had refused to respond to a single question about the lengthy statement, or acknowledge whether or not the agency has started or completed its newly announced health analysis. In his statement, Martens said a final determination on whether hydrofracking will be allowed in New York will wait until Shah and a panel of outside experts reviews the DEC’s work.
It’s not clear how extensive the DEC’s health-specific review has been or will be, or whether it will follow the guidelines and methodology laid out for health impact assessments by leading medical organizations.(2)
Gov. Cuomo himself supports Martens’ decision of not enlisting an outside group to perform a health study, and said so over the weekend:
“There was a request by some organizations that the state should have an outside of public health concerns. I don’t believe that’s correct. I believe that’s sort of antithetical to the entire concept — government is the objective reviewer, right? You don’t go to an outside, private firm for an independent review. To the extent that they say you need discrete expertise to do this public health review, fine. So DEC or DEC and the Department of Health, can make themselves available of the best expertise, but they maintain control of the review, and I think that’s the intelligent approach.”(3)

By Christie Smythe and Tiffany Kary on September 24, 2012 Bloomberg Business Week

New York state can’t pursue a lawsuit seeking a full environmental review of hydraulic fracturing, a federal judge ruled in a case that might have held up natural gas development in the Delaware River Basin.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis granted a request by the Environmental Protection Agency and other U.S. agencies to throw out the case, finding that the development plans are in the early stages and the threat of harm is speculative.

“The court has no way of judging reliably how probable it is that the regulation will be enacted and thus no way of judging whether risk that natural gas development may create are more than conjecture,” Garaufis said in his ruling.

The lawsuit, brought by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, pitted arguments for environmental conservation against those for a domestic energy source and new jobs.

The New York City Council and environmental groups have sided with the state, warning of breathing problems for city residents and risks to fish in the Chesapeake Bay. Organizations representing companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) sided with the federal government, arguing that the lawsuit is based on “speculative fears.”

River Compact

Schneiderman sued the Delaware River Basin Commission , the EPA and other federal agencies in May 2011 to force a fuller assessment of the environmental impact that gas development could have on the state’s water supply.

The river commission, created in 1961, is a compact among New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the federal government. It is responsible for water quality in the Delaware River Basin, which supplies drinking water to the four states.

“Everyone in this room drinks New York City water,” Garaufis said during a July 24 hearing. “I’m dealing with a real serious issue that may occur here with regards to the drinking water of 15 million people.”

Schneiderman said in the lawsuit that the commission’s proposed regulations would allow the natural gas-extraction process known as fracking at 15,000 to 18,000 gas wells without a full environmental review. If the regulations are issued, a moratorium on fracking in New York, already in effect for more than 18 months, will be lifted.

State Findings

New York says it has shown that fracking generates millions of gallons of wastewater contaminated with toxic metals and radioactive substances, and that companies using the process in Pennsylvania have violated the law 1,600 times, harming the state’s water.

“It was very clear to us that the judge understood that this was a very serious issue and we are absolutely the right organizations and individuals to be pursuing this litigation on behalf of the public,” said Maya van Rossum, leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, which was also a plaintiff in the case.

The Marcellus Shale beneath parts of New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, has an estimated 400 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, one of the largest such formations in the world, according to the trade groups, which represent companies with natural gas-leases in New York State.

The lawsuit might have shut down gas development in the river basin “for many years to come,” the trade associations said in court papers.

In Pennsylvania, natural gas and related industries have generated 72,000 jobs, 3,143 well permits and more than $1 billion in tax revenue since 2009, the trade groups said.

New York City has spent almost $1.5 billion to protect the drinking water that flows from the watershed, Schneiderman said in his complaint. The money has gone to buying land to serve as a buffer for pollutants, upgrading sewage plants and regulating human activity.

The case is New York v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 11- cv-02599, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

New York Daily News   Sunday, September 23, 2012, 4:10 AM

Studying connection between fracking and syphilis would be a waste of time

In their desperation to block Gov. Cuomo from giving the okay for fracking in New York, die-hard opponents of the natural gas drilling technology are floating laugh-out-loud-funny health and environmental threats.

Most hilariously, the enviro-activists have demanded that state officials explore an alleged link between fracking and — we kid you not — syphilis.

They argue that a drilling boom would draw an influx of male workers from other states who would engage in activities of a kind that would spread sexually transmitted diseases.

They also contend that a boom would trigger a housing crunch, adding to homelessness and the health ailments that go along with it.

And that increased truck traffic would not only lead to more road fatalities, but would also — again, no kidding — discourage people from getting the outdoor exercise they need to stay fit.

This is absurd. If New York starts saying no to entire industries on the grounds they might trigger population changes, rising home prices and truck traffic, it might as well turn out the lights.

Have the people pushing these theories considered the health effects of unemployment and poverty — which are all too common in the parts of New York targeted for drilling?

Have they forgotten the public health upsides of harvesting natural gas — which burns far more cleanly than other fossil fuels?

What fracking opponents really want is not a study of imagined risks, but many more months of wheel-spinning in Albany — and additional fodder for litigation.

Hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, involves pumping millions of gallons of chemical-laced water deep into the earth at high pressure to release trapped natural gas. For four years, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has analyzed the extent of true health concerns, such as the potential for air and water pollution.

As a result, the DEC has proposed what everyone acknowledges are some of the tightest regulations in the nation — including an absolute ban on drilling in the entire region surrounding New York City’s reservoirs.

The opponents tried to push DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens into hiring a public health consultant to check out the danger of venereal diseases and all the rest.

Smartly, he went only so far as to ask Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to review whether DEC has appropriately considered health concerns. If faux seriousness is what it takes to head off lawsuits, so be it. Stifling laughter is a small price to pay for progress toward fracking approval.


NY LANDOWNERS AFFIRM DEC DECISION TO REJECT CALLS FOR SPECIAL INTEREST HEALTH STUDY

Landowners Urge Governor Cuomo to Avoid More Delays and to Issue Science-Based SGEIS Guidelines

 

September 21, 2012 – Binghamton, NY— The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York (JLCNY) welcomed the decision by the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to reject calls for an independent health study.  The DEC has been studying the impacts of natural gas development using high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing for nearly four years. Governor Cuomo has repeatedly said the final decision would be based on science and facts and that a decision on guidelines would be coming soon.

“The outright rejection by the DEC of a delay tactic sought by special interests harboring extreme views opposing any natural gas development is good news,”said Dan Fitzsimmons, president of the JLCNY, representing over 77,000 New York landowners.  “This position renews our faith that the long stated intentions of the Governor to lead, based on the facts will prevail even while biased groups recycle myths and distortions about natural gas development.  As people who would host this activity on our land, we have investigated the practices and participated for years in recommending safeguards that will allow us to utilize our resources and protect our land, air and water. The State has the expertise to properly regulate this industry.  These outright hostile attacks by special interest groups must be refused and the final guidelines issued, demonstrating that New York is open for business.”

“This is the right decision,”said Brian Conover, president of the Central New York Landowners Coalition (CNY), the JLCNY’s largest coalition, representing over 215,000 acres.  “The next step is to ensure that the review the DEC initiates is done expeditiously and is mindful of the long-term delays we have experienced that have cost us dearly – both as a state and as individuals. We cannot afford to sacrifice tens of thousands of jobs that represent the survival of our region’s economy.  Governor Cuomo has no greater opportunity to create new jobs and economic prosperity than by issuing clear statewide natural gas development rules.  Even leaders as varied as President Obama, Governor Romney and Mayor Bloomberg recognize that natural gas development is a vital component to our energy and economic future and benefits our environment.”

About The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York
The mission of The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York (JLCNY) is to foster, promote, advance and protect the common interest of the people as it pertains to natural gas development though education and best environmental practices. JLCNY gathers and provides factual, objective information about safe and responsible natural gas development to landowners and community members.
Contact: Susan Oliver, JLCNY, 703-216-4078 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.JLCNY.org

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