May 1st - 1:58 pm
The closed-door talks with legislative leaders and cabinet officials on economic development proposals do not include any immediate plans to allow high-volume hydrofracking to move forward in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
“That’s not something I’ve talked to legislative leaders about,” Cuomo said at a cabinet meeting today. “There’s been no change on where we are on fracking. That’s not what I was referring to when I was talking about economic development ideas. We’re talking about separate ideas.”
Cuomo continues to be pushed by the natural gas industry to move forward with permits for fracking after years of studies and artificial regulatory deadlines blown.
The drilling method is opposed by environmental groups who point to the dangers associated with the process and its possible adverse impacts on human health.
At today’s meeting, Department of Health Commissioner Nirav Shah said the study into the health impacts of fracking continues, but there’s no timetable for completion.
“It’s kind of like aiming at a moving target,” Shah said. ”I want to make sure, that I give, Commissioner Martens the best review possible.”
He’s met with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Marcellus Shale Institute when putting together the study. DEC Commissioner Joe Martens has not ruled out approving fracking permits before regulations are completed if the health study deems the process safe.
“I’ve had a chance to meet with the folks at the EPA and the folks in Pennsylvania and their scope of work, their timetable and that’s helping inform my work with the outside experts as well,” Shah said.
Apr 25th - 5:08 pm
There’s a brief post-script to the kerfluffle over the Erie County-based consulting firm hired to aid the state in developing the environmental impact statement for hydrofracking.
To recap, the firm Ecology and Environment was included on a letter this week by the Independent Oil and Gas Association, one of the prominent trade groups backing hydrofracking in the state, that pushed Gov. Andrew Cuomo to begin permitting for the controversial gas drilling process.
The firm was listed with dozens of other companies and entities, but a day later clarified that its membership was only for an individual employee who signed up in order to keep up-to-date on the current trends in technology and receive a newsletter. The company, which paid the dues for the employee, wrote in a letter to the Department of Environmental Conservation that it was terminating the relationship.
A reader today directed me to the membership form for IOGA, which includes this caveat at the end: “For income tax purposes, 65% of IOGANY 2013 dues may be deductible as an ordinary and necessary business expense, but not as a charitable contribution. 35% of dues payments are considered “lobbying expenses” and are, therefore, nondeductible.”
The epsiode for opponents of hydrofracking underscores their concerns the state is too closely tied with the natural gas industry. A day after the New York Public Interest Research Group called for the scrapping of the environmental impact statement that E&E contributed to and after the company clarified its relationship with IOGA, a second good-government organization, Common Cause, says it also wants the state to start over again.
Common Cause also called attention to two other groups, Alpha Geoscience and URS Corporation, hired in 2009 during Gov. David Paterson’s administration, that have ties to the industry.
“We are deeply disquieted by this large scale breach of the public interest,” Executive Director Susan Lerner said in a statement. “New Yorkers submitted over 66,000 comments on the proposed SGEIS in good faith, reflecting their concerns. These conflicts of interest discredit the impartiality of the review process.”
Apr 24th - 4:56 pm
The firm contracted by the state to help complete an environmental impact statement for the controversial natural gas drilling process hydrofracking clarified its relationship with an energy industry trade group in a letter to the Department of Environmental Conservation.
The letter from Ecology and Environment Inc.‘s in-house counsel Colleen Mullaney-Westfall asserts that the firm has never been a corporate member of the Independent Oil and Gas Association, one of the key energy lobbying organizations pushing for the state to allow high-volume hydrofracking.
The consulting company was listed on a letter this week from IOGA that had called on Cuomo to move forward with hydrofracking after the state missed multiple regulatory deadlines. Democratic lawmakers and the New York Public Interest Research Group at a news conference in Albany this morning called on the Cuomo administration to scrap the environmental impact statement and start again.
That E&E had been included in the IOGA letter came to light from Gannett’s Albany bureau the same day it was released, Monday. E&E didn’t clarify its relationship with IOGA until today after the news conference.
But Ecology and Environment writes in the letter that IOGA “misrepresented” their relationship with the trade group. Only one employee of E&E was a dues-paying member of IOGA, and that was to receive the group’s newsletter and attend conferences in order to keep up to date on technical developments within the industry, Mullaney-Westfall wrote in the letter.
E&E had been paying the dues for that employee, but after IOGA included them in their public push as an affiliated group, the company has directed the employee to terminate their membership with IOGA.
The letter from E&E was released to reporters by the Department of Environmental Conservation this afternoon.
Apr 24th - 12:48 pm
As if we needed more evidence on Gannett’s Jon Campbell’s impact as the LCA’s resident fracking scoop artist, a coalition of groups and Senate and Assembly Democrats today seizing on his report that one of the experts hired by the Department of Environmental Conservation to help write hydrofracking regulations is a member of the gas industry trade group.
Democrats, along with the New York Public Interest Research Group and the environmental organization Frack Action, are calling for the Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Study to be scrapped after it came to light Ecology and Environment, a consultant hired by the DEC, is part of the Independent Oil & Gas Association.
IOGA sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week that pushed him on allowing hydrofracking to move forward in the state. Included on the letter was Ecology and Environment.
Opponents of hydrofracking, already skeptical that the state was too close to business groups backing hydrofracking, believe the process is too tainted.
“I think this sort of thing is very troulbing. It shows the administration, the DEC, is too cozy with the industry,” said Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca.
In a letter to Cuomo, NYPIRG called on him to return to begin the regulation-writing process again.
“We believe that New Yorkers deserve a truly independent review of the socio-economic impacts of fracking in the state. Ecology and Environment’s lobbying position demonstrates that it is not an objective analyst on this subject,” the group wrote.
A call to the DEC was not immediately returned.
The state has blown through multiple self-imposed deadlines to finalize the rule-making process for hydrofracking. The state Department of Health is currently assessing the health impacts of hydrofracking qnd the DEC has not ruled out issuing permits as the regulations are still be written if the DOH deems the process safe.
Apr 22nd - 10:50 am
The Indepedent Oil and Gas Association today — Earth Day, no less — sent a public letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the push for moving forward with the controversial natural gas drilling process known as hydrofracking.
IOGA Executive Director Brad Gill writes of an industry and profession that is “in crisis” as the state continues to assess whether to grant fracking permits.
Gill writes that fracking can be done safely, pointing to several cases across the country where natural gas also led to economic benefits.
“In a recent interview, you challenged those who advance extreme arguments at the expense of the reasonable. It is our hope that the same standard is being applied to your determination regarding the exploration of natural gas reserves in New York State,” he wrote. “Further, we ask that you consider that many regulators and elected officials are embracing natural gas as a source of clean, abundant and domestically available energy.”
The letter comes as the state continues to review the health effects of hydrofracking as Department of Health Commissioner Nirav Shah moves forward with a health study (Jon Campbell at Gannett has a very timely story today on the state moving the goal posts on a decision for fracking).
“The science is in,” Gill concludes. “The public can be assured that exploration for natural gas in New York is and has been safe,good for our environment and for our economy. Our New New York must now join the nation and embrace theexpansion of responsible natural gas development. We need your help.”
Apr 18th - 12:39 pm
New York voters remain divided over whether to allow the controversial natural gas drilling method known as hydrofracking should be allowed, but their knowledge of the issue has reached its highest point in two years, a Quinnipiac poll released this morning found.
The poll found that 42 percent support drilling for the possible economic benefits, while 46 percent votes do not back hydrofracking over environmental concerns.
“Fracking continues to divide the state by party, region and gender. The thumbs-down we found last time is moving back into a grey area. Voters still think it will bring new jobs – and some environmental damage,” said Mickey Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac Univerity Polling Institute.
Upstate voters are divided 45 percent in favor, 46 percent opposed on the issue of fracking, while New York City residents oppose it 47 to 37 percent.
Meanwhile, more New York voters say they have read or heard something about the polarizing issue.
The poll found 69 percent of voters have heard of the issue, the highest since the question was asked. In September 2011, only 53 percent of New York voters surveyed said they had heard or read something about fracking.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is yet to make a determination as to whether hydrofracking should be allowed. Cuomo has said he understands there could be significant economic benefits to allowing fracking, but wants to determine first whether there are any health risks in the lead up to what’s expected to be a flurry of legal challenges based on whatever deicsion is ultimately made.
The state Department of Health is currently reviewing whether fracking would adversely effect human health as the state Department of Environmental Conservation has blown through multiple deadlines for the regulatory process.
The telephone survey of 1,404 registered New York voters was conducted between April 9 and 14 and has a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points.
Apr 12th - 2:32 pm
Underscoring how hydrofracking continues to be one of those issues that cuts through party lines in the state Legislature, advocates opposing the controversial drilling method are pointing today to two statements from Republican and Democratic state senators who have concerns.
First there’s Sen. John Bonacic, a Hudson Valley Republican who is generally considered one of the more moderate members of the GOP conference.
Bonacic in his statement backed the approach being taken by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration that is relying on the Department of Health to complete its work on the effects of hydrofracking on human health, but said he would have “no objection” to waiting for federal officials to make a determination.
“I believe it is important to let people with appropriate training and scientific backgrounds make decisions relating to this issue,” Bonacic said in his statement. “I am supportive of the DEC and the Department of Health’s role. If they determine it is appropriate to wait for more information from federal officials before proceeding, I have no objection to that.”
Bonacic isn’t the only Republican in the Senate to be ambivalent about hydrofracking. Sen. Greg Ball, the conference’s wildcard, is in fact stridently opposed to allowing fracking in New York.
Tkaczyk, in a seperate but similar statement, called for a two-year moratorium as well as learning more from a forthcoming Environmental Protection Agency study on groundwater.
“This is an important decision and it is imperative it be based on the scientific realities. A two-year moratorium, enacted by the state Legislature, would give us the time and the facts we need to make the right decision for New York,” she said in her statement.
Apr 9th - 3:01 pm
Hudson Valley United Against Fracking, a coalition featuring current and retired lawmakers, singer Natalie Merchant and environmentalists sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo today urging him to not move forward with any plans to allow high-volume fracking in the state.
The letter, signed by former Rep. Maurice Hinchey, comes as the state Department of Health continues its review of the impact of the controversial natural-gas drilling process.
Also included in the coalition is newly elected Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, whose district stretches from the Mohawk Valley down to the Hudson Valley.
In the letter, Hinchey points to his own efforts in Congress to oppose hydrofracking and push the Environmental Protection Agnecy to adopt stricter guidelines for the drilling method.
After serving as an elected official for nearly four decades, I understand howimportant it is not to rush decisions like this and make certain we have all the data, facts and best information to make the right decision. I’m confident that New Yorkers will agree with and support you in standing up for their health and well-being by allowing the scientific studies to be completed prior to the State’s decision about fracking. I would certainly join them in applauding yourcourageous leadership on this issue in doing so and I thank you for considering these comments.
The Independent Oil and Gas Association released a statement in response to the letter, saying that once the regulations are adopted many of the concerns from the environmental community will be addressed.
“New York’s draft permit guidelines and regulations, when finalized, will address every concern expressed by those who oppose safe natural gas exploration. Drafts of these documents include exhaustive review and rigorous protections of drinking water supplies, incorporating strict well-casing rules, lengthy setbacks from surface waters, and numerous other safeguards,” said IOGA Executive Director Brad Gill.
Apr 1st - 1:20 pm
An alliance of environmental groups opposed to high-volume hydrofracking today announced a call-in campaign featuring messages via phone calls, emails, and through social media to ratchet up pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to not allow the controversial gas extraction process.
The campaign, dubbed “Call Cuomo,” will include celebrities, activists and others involved in the anti-fracking movement to get New Yorkers to participate.
The group also launched a website with a phone number that sends the caller to an automated message and then connects them to the governor’s office.
“Governor Cuomo recently said that his Health and Environmental Commissioners might make a decision on fracking before the science is in,” said David Braun from New Yorkers Against Fracking in a statement. “We hope that he will wait for the science and listen to the majority of New Yorkers who are concerned about the health and environmental problems that come with fracking rather than global energy behemoths that are spending millions of dollars trying to open New York up to fracking. We areconfident that a real independent health impact assessment will show that fracking cannot be done safely.”
The call-in campaign comes as the state Department of Health continues its assessment of hydrofracking and its potential impact on human health. The Department of Environmental Conservation has said it would issue permits for fracking should the DOH deem the process safe.
The state has missed multiple, self-imposed deadlines for the regulatory review process as polls show New Yorkers are largely divided on the issue with support and opposition rarely getting out of the margin of error.
Groups participating in the effort include Concerned Health Professionals of NY, National Resources Defense Council, 350.org, Environmental Advocates of New York, Riverkeeper, Democracy for America, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Frack Action, United for Action, and New Yorkers Against Fracking.
Mar 20th - 8:24 am
Opposition among New York voters to high-volume hydrofracking is growing, with 46 percent of voters telling a Quinnipiac University survey they are against allowing the process in the state.
The poll released this morning found that voters are split 46 to 39 percent on the issue that remains a polarizing one in Albany.
The results are the reversal of what Quinnipiac found less than two years ago, when support for hydrofracking peaked at 47 percent to 42 percent.
“New Yorkers might be getting impatient with the long delay over natural gas drilling. They’re turning negative on the basic idea and more of them see foot-dragging by Gov. Andrew Cuomo rather than a careful evaluation,” said Mickey Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Looking at the issue regionally, upstate voters remain divided on the issue of hydrofracking, with 42 percent opposed and 44 percent in support. A similar result is found among suburbanites, with both support and opposition coming in at 42 percent.
Hydrofracking is most clearly opposed in New York City, where a clear majority — 53 percent of voters polled — say they are against the process and only 32 percent say they back it.
The state has repeatedly missed self-imposed deadlines to develop regulations should hydrofracking permits be granted.
The state Department of Health is continuing to study the impact of hydrofracking on human health as the Department of Environmental Conservation says permits could be granted if the report deems the process safe.
The issue has been a particularly difficult one for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to thread the needle on as a passionate environmental movement has sprung up to oppose fracking. Environmental groups contend the process is a dangerous one and could adversely impact the local water table.
Cuomo has said he wants the science to guide the process on whether hydrofracking is allowed.
Supporters of hydrofracking point to the economic benefit of allowing the process, which would be considered for the state’s economically troubled Southern Tier area where natural gas deposits are believed to be especially rich.