The natural gas industry said it was largely supportive of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) final draft report on the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
The supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on fracking and additional documents addressing economic and community impacts from the practice were issued on Wednesday (see Shale Daily, Sept. 8).
"What came out yesterday [from the DEC] was very interesting," John Holko, president of Lenape Energy Inc. and a board member of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York (IOGA), told NGI's Shale Daily on Thursday. "It looks like they believe that they can mitigate any negative impacts on a community, and the economic impact is very positive."
In its report the DEC said between 14,000 and 54,000 jobs could be created in the Empire State if fracking were allowed to develop under a low or average scenario, respectively. Those figures include jobs directly and indirectly tied to the shale gas industry.
"Those figures seem to be conservative," Holko said. "My belief is that they didn't want to overstep the bounds because a lot of what is going to happen in the area they are focusing on is just going to be a layover from Pennsylvania.
"A lot of the impact that happened in Pennsylvania was from a completely new industry coming into the area. It won't be as dramatic in New York because they're just going to be driving up the road. They won't have to completely locate there. A lot of it will be transitional. Whereas in Pennsylvania, a lot of [equipment] had to come here from Texas and it wasn't transitional."
On community impacts, the DEC said it hoped to help mitigate transportation issues by requiring operators produce detailed transportation plans and ensure that the roads they plan to use can accommodate the proposed truck traffic. The agency encouraged operators to enter into road-use agreements where possible.
Holko said the DEC's roads proposals weren't out of the ordinary. "What's changing the most is the quantity of activity and the amount of trucks," Holko said. "Historically, the industry in New York has had road use and bonding agreements in the various areas it has operated. The companies understand that they are going to be responsible [for the roads] and the townships know they are going to have to require some sort of bonding just in case someone tries to skip off."
The DEC also outlined its plans to help mitigate noise and visual impacts from fracking, including a proposal that it may decide to limit simultaneous development of well pads and wells that are in close proximity to each other. Additional measures, such as specific time frames for well site construction, could be implemented in the future.
"Believe it or not, that discussion is a statement of how things pretty much operate already," Holko said, adding that the industry in New York currently completes an environmental assessment form and creates a mitigation plan for every project. "They are just trying to put into layman's terms what is already being done. Every well, every pad, every permit is issued on a well-by-well basis. That will all be reviewed, and in reviewing that they're going to look at the overall impact of what else you're doing.
"Are they getting deeper into somebody's business? In New York, that's the way it's always been done."
Tom Amontree, executive vice president for America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), said the organization welcomed the DEC's report.
"While we need to review the new details, we look forward to working with New Yorkers to develop balanced, constructive and science-based policies that both protect the environment and open the door to the pent-up economic opportunity that exists in the state," Amontree said. "Our member companies are deeply committed to the safe and responsible development of this vast, untapped New York resource and are proud of the substantial jobs and wages we stand ready to bring to the state."
Travis Windle and Chris Tucker -- spokesmen for the Marcellus Shale Coalition and Energy In Depth (EID), a shale gas education initiative, respectively -- deferred to comments by ANGA and the American Petroleum Institute on the SGEIS.
"We're looking at the regulatory elements and some of the other little changes that we've seen," Steve Everley, another EID spokesman, told NGI's Shale Daily on Thursday. "They didn't really make any huge changes in terms of fracturing fluids; they still say that's not going to contaminate anything. The job-creation numbers are obviously very significant and very important."
Responding to requests by lawmakers and groups on both sides of the fracking debate (see Shale Daily, Aug. 23), the DEC said it would accept public comments on the supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) by mail or an online form through the close of business on Dec. 12. The agency also said it would hold four public hearings on the SGEIS in counties in the Marcellus Shale region and in New York City, but it has not yet announced the dates and locations.
The core recommendations contained in the 1,537-page SGEIS were unchanged from the draft version of the report, which was issued in July (see Shale Daily, July 5). Those recommendations include requiring operators to disclose the chemicals used in fracking, prohibiting drilling in all primary aquifers, the watersheds of New York City and Syracuse, and all state-owned land.
Estimates put potential natural gas reserves in New York's portion of the Marcellus Basin behind those of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where drilling and production have been flourishing over the last several years.
The SGEIS is to provide the framework for DEC's high-volume fracking permit process. In July 2008 then-Gov. David Paterson ordered the DEC to complete 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). Paterson requested the SGEIS because the original GEIS was completed in 1992, before technological changes in shale development. In the closing days of his term Paterson extended the SGEIS deadline until July 1 (see Shale Daily, Dec. 14, 2010).