Seven years in the making, and having received over 260,000 public comments, The Final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (Final SGEIS) was released on May 13th, completing the environmental review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) in the state of New York.
The report, which is more than 2,000 pages long and includes more than 300 pages of state responses to comments, clears the way for state Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens to issue a final order on the controversial fracking issue in the state. The impact statement was first ordered by the then-Gov. David Paterson in July 2008. At the time he put large-scale fracking on hold until the report was completed. That de facto moratorium has held ever since.
The report “is the result of an extensive examination of high-volume hydraulic fracturing and its potential adverse impacts on critical resources such as drinking water, community character and wildlife habitat,” Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said.
“We considered materials from numerous sources, including scientific studies, academic research and public comments, and evaluated the effectiveness of potential mitigation measures to protect New York’s valuable natural resources and the health of residents,” Martens said.
The report lays out series of measures that can be undertaken to lessen the adverse effect hydraulic fracturing can have on the environment, but the general consensus is the Governor Andrew Cuomo will use the report to completely ban the procedure in the state. This would be the “no-action” alternative that the report seems to favour.
“The impacts to water resources that would be avoided by the no-action alternative merit special attention,” the report reads. “Even with mitigation measures in place, the risk of spills and other unplanned events resulting in the discharge of toxic pollutants over a wide area would not be eliminated. Moreover, the level of risk such spills pose to public health is highly uncertain.”
The report was well received by environmental groups. “There are thousands of pages of fine detail to sort through, and we know much work remains, like banning other states’ fracking waste from being dumped inside our borders,” said Liz Moran, an associate with Environmental Advocates of New York.
Natural Resources Defense Council lawyer Kate Sinding said: “The governor has rightfully let science and the will of the people be his guide, despite pressure from a powerful industry.”
The landowners, on the other hand, who resent the state interference that banns them from profiting from hydrocarbon deposits under their land, accuse the Governor of making strictly political decisions.
“Andrew Cuomo said his decision on hydraulic fracturing would be guided by science and facts. But, no matter what side of this debate you are on, everyone knows Cuomo’s decision was solely based on his political future,” said Dan Fitzsimmons, president of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York.
Now – as the portal PressConnects reports – state law says Martens must wait at least 10 days before issuing his “findings statement,” a separate, legally binding document that will be closely scrutinized by the natural-gas industry and pro-fracking groups for any missteps that could be an opening for a lawsuit.
Image: Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York
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