A trio of New York legislators opposed to high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) held court over a lengthy public hearing Thursday on rules that would govern the practice, but officials with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) were not in attendance.

Supporters and opponents of HVHF signed onto the scheduled witness list — effectively making it a “who’s who” on both sides of the issue — for the hearing sponsored by New York Democratic Assemblymen Richard Gottfried (Manhattan), Robert Sweeney (Lindenhurst) and Charles Lavine (Glen Cove).

DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis told NGI’s Shale Daily the agency had already participated in three Assembly hearings on HVHF, and wouldn’t be at the latest one.

“Currently, we are focused on completing the revisions to the draft SGEIS [supplemental generic environmental impact statement] and reviewing comments we have received on the draft regulations,” DeSantis said. “We will gladly consider Assembly members’ comments submitted at the hearing in our continuing review of this issue.”

In September, DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens asked Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Nirav Shah to conduct a health impact analysis of HVHF before the DEC wraps up its SGEIS on the practice (see Shale Daily, Sept. 24, 2012). The DEC filed for a 90-day extension when it became obvious that the health experts contracted by Shah would not complete their work before a Nov. 29 deadline (see Shale Daily, Nov. 29, 2012).

“[We] will not take any final action or make any decision regarding hydraulic fracturing until after Dr. Shah’s health review is completed and DEC, through the environmental impact statement, is satisfied that this activity can be done safely in New York State,” DeSantis said.

Inge Grafe-Kieklak, a landowner from Sullivan County, NY, blasted the trio of lawmakers, accusing them of stall tactics.

“How can you sit here and have the audacity to ask for more delays on gas drilling?” Grafe-Kieklak said. “You have a proven business model [in Pennsylvania]. [HVHF] can be done safely, and will not cost the state and its taxpayers any subsidies. Yet we still sit and continue to do nothing. You were voted in by the people and you are paid by the people. You are civil servants. This means you have to serve all of us, not just the ones you think can help advance your career.

“You’re stalling because of some very vocal, media savvy, Hollywood 1%ers and their cult following. These individuals have no scientific credentials [but] you promised them the moon. You’re guilty of stalling this long awaited process and following a cult called environmentalism.”

Scott Kurkoski, an attorney with the Binghamton, NY, law offices of Levene Gouldin & Thompson LLP, spoke on behalf of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York Inc. He told legislators that they should ask themselves additional questions once the DOH completes its health impact analysis of HVHF.

“What are the health impacts of poverty and unemployment?” Kurkoski asked. “What are the health impacts on our young men and women who are fighting to protect our interests in foreign countries? What are the health impacts from giving billions of dollars away to our enemies who would like to do us harm?

“We need to examine all of the different energy sources. We cannot sit here in a hearing all day long and talk about the faults of one particular energy [source] by itself. Everything has to be considered together.

“This country was built on a ‘can do’ attitude, but these days the loudest voices are those with a ‘can’t do’ philosophy. We can’t do gas, wind, power lines, transmission lines, pipelines. Those ‘can’t doers’ keep us in constant gridlock, unable to recognize an opportunity right under our feet. Please do not join those voices.”

Larysa Dyrszka, a retired pediatrician, urged the Assembly to pass a bill calling for a statewide moratorium on HVHF.

“The process being undertaken by this administration is unfolding in secret, without the input of the New York public and the medical community, and with the rules released before the health studies,” Dyrszka said. “This leads us to conclude that the rules, like SGEIS, have been informed by politics and not science. New York had a chance to get it right, but I seriously doubt that it will.”

Ansje Miller, eastern states director for the Center for Environmental Health, applauded the experts hired by the DOH to conduct the health impact analysis of HVHF (see Shale Daily, Nov. 19, 2012), but said they weren’t given enough time to do their work.

“A comprehensive health impact assessment has some specific criteria, but that hasn’t been done,” Miller said. “So will these regulations protect public health? Given that we don’t have this health impact analysis, and that the regulations have known holes…the answer is a clear ‘no.'”

The trio of lawmakers called the public hearing after a draft assessment of HVHF by the DOH in early 2012 surfaced in the media (see Shale Daily, Jan. 7). The eight-page report, which was never released to the public, concluded that HVHF could be performed safely with appropriate regulation.