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New York IOGA Urges State to Complete Frack Study

New York's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) should complete work on a supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) by July 1 and the State Assembly should "reject all forms of obstructive legislation" that would delay natural gas development, according to letters sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers by the The Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York (IOGA).

"Every day we lose is another lost economic opportunity -- another day that neighboring states experience increases in employment, sales tax, income tax and business growth. New York has a long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship with the oil and gas industry, and we are absolutely confident that relationship will continue to flourish as natural gas from the Marcellus Shale is harvested," IOGA Executive Director Brad Gill wrote in a letter sent to Cuomo April 11.

Neighboring states such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio are indeed cashing in as the development of Marcellus Shale acreage proceeds. As of the week ending April 8, about 140 oil and gas rigs were operating in the Marcellus, which is 20 more than were operating one year ago, according to NGI's Shale Daily Unconventional Rig Count (see shaledaily.com).

In July 2008 then-Gov. David Paterson directed DEC to prepare the SGEIS, which effectively placed a moratorium on drilling horizontal wells in the New York portion of the Marcellus Shale (see Daily GPI, July 28, 2008). In the closing days of his term in office, Paterson extended until July 1 the deadline for DEC to prepare the SGEIS (see Shale Daily, Dec. 14, 2010). In February DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said the agency's updated draft regulations could be completed in June, slightly ahead of schedule (see Shale Daily, Feb. 10).

But last month a DEC spokesman told NGI's Shale Daily that DEC expected work on the SGEIS "will be done this summer, [but] not by June 1," and said there was no estimate of the time it would take to complete the comment period and any other necessary work (see Shale Daily, April 1). Paterson's executive order said only that the draft SGEIS should be completed "on or about June 1," and would be followed by a comment period stipulated as "not less than 30 days," according to the spokesman.

Such a delay would cost the state jobs and revenue, according to IOGA.

"State regulators and elected leaders have worked tirelessly to ensure the pending SGEIS is thorough and will adequately protect the state's natural resources. The industry strongly believes the new SGEIS will set the environmental bar even higher than it has been in New York and that lengthy debate will only serve to deepen the negative economic impact that has occurred," Gill said.

At a rally in Albany on Monday, hundreds of hydrofracking opponents urged Cuomo and the legislature not to rush DEC through its SGEIS process. The protesters lobbied legislators and marched to the DEC, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal. But literature distributed by the protesters was "rife with deliberate inaccuracies," according to Gill.

"New York cannot afford to allow protests rooted in misinformation to halt the tremendous economic development opportunity that awaits our state," he wrote to Cuomo.

A district court judge recently ruled that producers may not declare a force majeure and still must pay property owners to hold the leases, even if they are prevented from fracking wells by New York's moratorium (see Shale Daily, April 11).

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