Appalachian Basin

Much Ado About Nothing

Last week New York State Department of Environmental Conservation head Joe Martens appeared on Talk 1300 AM to discuss the state’s consideration of hydraulic fracturing and their proposed regulatory framework outlined in the recently revised draft SGEIS.   During the half-hour interview, available here, Martens addressed many questions regarding environmental groups claims about the impacts of hydraulic fracturing.  Throughout the show Martens took critics to task, set the record straight, and re-confirmed DEC’s analysis that hydraulic fracturing can, and is, being done safely and will bring tremendous benefits to New York State (more after the jump).

The most compelling statement by Martens was in regards to water contamination and the second-class citizen argument being chanted by a hyperactive vocal minority at every turn.  If you are paying attention you have heard it, it goes something like this:

Why is the New York City watershed special? We deserve the same level of protection.  Or that the exemptions provided to New York City and Syracuse can be taken as an admission from DEC that fracturing contaminates water supplies.  A few of our favorite anti-followers have parroted these claims.

This begs the question what did Commissioner Martens have to say about this?  Especially given his pedigreed credentials as former president of the Open Space Institute and his service in roles promoting environmental conservation for two democratic governors in New York.  The Commissioner said the following.

Just the prospect of drilling [in these areas] could lead to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency taking a second look at whether these communities [NYC and Syracuse] should have a FAD (Filtration  Avoidance Determinationonly a handful exist throughout the nation).  It’s not even about what could get in the water because we think the restrictions we are proposing will keep fracturing fluids and chemicals out of the water supplies of New York City and elsewhere.

Pretty strong statement from the Commissioner that highlights a simple fact that has been echoed by the federal government, federal officials and state regulators throughout the Country. Hydraulic fracturing doesn’t contaminate groundwater.

We are not disillusioned to believe the anti’s will begin listening now.  They will keep saying the sky is falling to discourage natural gas production in favor of their preferred sources of energy.  All the while turning a blind eye to the very real energy security, national security and manufacturing employment benefits natural gas production provides.  These groups also downplay the jobs natural gas production will bring by claiming they will be filled by out of state workers.  This PA Department of Labor report cites  71% of all jobs in the natural gas industry were provided to Pennsylvania residents in 2010 .  Either PA is lying or the anti’s have egg on their face.  You decide.

But I digress, this post is about Commissioner Martens.  So what else did he say?  He continued to hammer home against the points made by some groups about water contamination.  Indicating the claim on the amount of chemicals used in fracturing “has been overstated”. He reiterated that 99% of hydraulic fracturing fluids are water and sand with no more than 2% of the solution being additives, some of which aren’t very toxic at all.  You can see our more in depth breakdown here or visit to find out components of hydraulic fracturing fluid on a wellpad by wellpad basis.

The Commissioner also indirectly addressed the rabid attempts by some claiming that New York is allowing fracturing to occur far too close to the state’s water resources.  His answer here is fairly succinct.

There has to be a 1,000 ft separation distance between the horizontal lateral and a water supply… we haven’t seen evidence that that there any issues associated with migration through that separation distance.

Additionally, the Commissioner touched base on the frenszied bans being pushed by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund on local communities.  The question? Do you think the localities have the authority under state law to on their own stop hydraulic fracturing?  What did the Commissioner say?

I think the issue will come down to whether or not these communities that are banning drilling, whether that is a legitimate exercise of their authority, I think you can make a very solid case that it is not.

All in all it was a pretty tough interview from an out of touch with reality environmentalist perspective. That being said, perhaps the most immediate slap in the face to these groups was the following.

Is there any reason to [further] extend the comment period in New York?

Martens Response.  “[There is] No reason I can see now to extend it.”

We agree Mr. Commissioner its time to get moving on natural gas development in New York.  We’ll see you at the upcoming public hearings.


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