October 8, 2011: Transcript of DEC Commissioner Joe Martens

TOP October 8, 2011: Transcript of DEC Commissioner Joe Martens

Read the transcript from the web chat with DEC Commissioner Joe Martens on October 8, 2011.

Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 10:00
Thank you for submitting questions and participating in today’s chat. For more information and to comment on the draft SGEIS visit: http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/75370.html.
Submitted by Jennifer on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:49am
You said that the reason drilling was prohibited in the Syracuse and NYC watersheds was because they do not filter their water and to protect them from sediment. I depend on a spring for my water, and I don't have a filtration system either. How will the DEC protect my water?
Hancock, NY
Water safety
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:58am
The dSGEIS has numerous protections in it designed to prevent contamination of any drinking water supplies in the state. As I have said, our number one goal is safeguard all of the state’s drinking water.
Submitted by ann on Thu, 10/06/2011 - 9:16pm
what is the rush to make a decision about fracking? there's much material to consider and the results of surveys, tests, etc. from across tghe country are not all in yet. time is needed to digest the information and make an informed decision on such an important matter. we cannot live with poisoned water.
nyc - manhattan
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:55am
I don’t agree that this process has been rushed. DEC has considered and examined the potential impacts of high-volume hydraulic fracturing and ways to mitigate those impacts for more than three years. We are in our second comment period and when that is over, two-thirds of the draft SGEIS, and a vast majority of the mitigation measure, will have been in the public realm for more than 150 days. Our number one priority through this entire process is to protect drinking water our rigorous requirements will do that.
Submitted by Diane on Thu, 10/06/2011 - 6:27pm
The DEC has responsibility to use proper procedures to meet its legal and ethical obligation to review, evaluate, and incorporate the public comments from scientists, health professionals, economists, organizations, public servants, local communities, and the public into the SGEIS in order to create effective rules and regulations with the most current unbiased data and research possible. How can the DEC accomplish this if it has already written rules and regulations without bothering to assimilate this data, research, and valuable information or waiting for the comment period to be complete?
Sanford, NY Broome County in the Delaware River Basin
Legal and Ethical Procedures
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:52am
In addition to looking at experience in other states, DEC has considered a wealth of research in developing the dSGEIS and has engaged expert consultants when necessary. The State Environmental Quality Review Act prescribes the process DEC must take in developing the dSGEIS which includes reviewing and responding to all of the comments we receive. The dSGEIS has had two public comment periods. The first was held in 2009 when DEC reviewed the more than 13,000 comments. DEC made many changes to the revised draft SGEIS, released in 2011, based on those comments. We are now in our second comment period and will review all comments we receive. I anticipate additional changes will be made to the dSGEIS based on the comments we are now receiving. DEC will prepare and publish a Responsive Summary that responds to all of the comments we received during both comment periods.
Submitted by Michael on Thu, 10/06/2011 - 4:17pm
After millions and millions of gallons of New York's fresh water has been used to frack, what will our children drink?
New York City
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:51am
Just this year a bill was signed into law that requires all commercial and industrial water users to get a permit from DEC for large water withdrawals. This requirement was designed to protect drinking water supplies and ensure an abundant supply continues to be available to the state’s residents. In fact, estimates show high-volume hydraulic fracturing will increase demand on fresh water in the state by just 0.24%.
Submitted by John on Thu, 10/06/2011 - 10:07pm
The current SGEIS does not seem to address the interplay between existing wells at different depths then those targeted for hydraulic fracturing. What is the process for addressing these sites and how will the homeowner be kept aware? Will the DEC be staffed well enough to ensure water quality and quality of life across existing wells today and the new 1600 coming every year? I have a wells out my backyard for 20 years and have never been contacted by anyone except CYNOG. Will the DEC do better this time around? How much is your staff going up to monitor and enforce these regulations. Where are the costs for the staff increase coming from and how much are they?
Apalachin/Region A
Existing Gas Well Interaction
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:50am
The proposed dSGEIS requires drilling companies to survey the land generally within one mile of a proposed well location. If an unplugged deep well is found, DEC would require the operator to properly plug and abandon it before any high-volume fracturing begins. About 225 additional staff is estimated to be need at DEC by year 5 of drilling activity at a cost of about $25 million. Currently, the Advisory Panel is looking at ways to bring in revenue to the state to cover these costs.
Submitted by Elizabeth on Thu, 10/06/2011 - 2:15pm
Why does this plan permit high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing so close - 1,000 feet - to the viaducts and other infrastructure that carry drinking water to nine million people in NYC and its environs?
Queens, NYC
DEC's draft regulations for hydraulic fracturing
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:48am
The 1,000-foot setback from any City aqueducts and similar structures is designed to ensure that any drilling does not physically damage any of the infrastructure directly, or through seismic vibrations. Our engineers soon will be meeting with New York City's engineers to ensure the currently proposed setbacks provide adequate protection, and the ultimate goal is plainly to ensure that this infrastructure is protected.
Submitted by Scott on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 12:37am
Considering the significant quantities of highly toxic materials used in hydrofracking and the huge quantities of onsite stored wastewater, the potential for a significant contamination event will be present at each drill site. What will be the minimum bond amount required from the drillers to insure area people and communities have sufficient means to recover when something goes wrong as it ultimately will, because no technology is foolproof and stuff happens?
Pine Plains
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:47am
As I stated previously, we are proposing the toughest standards in the nation so I do not agree that there will be “potential for a significant contamination event” at each drill site. That said, your question on financial security is a good one. Currently, bonding is required to pay for the plugging and reclamation of wells if a site operator abandons a well. I have asked staff to take a closer look into the idea of financial assurance to address liability and contamination associated with any accidents that may occur.
Submitted by Phisticuffs on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:26am
All you keep saying is how stringent your standards are. Yet there are no facilities to completely and adequately treat the waste. Explain this disconnect.
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:45am
Fair question. You are correct that no facilities in New York are currently permitted to accept wastewater from high-volume hydrofracking. There are, however, facilities permitted in other states that can accept this waste and eventually I expect that facilities will be modified to safely accept this waste in New York. As noted in my response to other questions, permits for drilling will not be approved unless the applicant has identified a disposal facility that meets all state and federal requirements.
Submitted by Dave on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 4:59am
How can anyone say fracking is safe when industry refuses to disclose the specific chemicals are used?
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:43am
Actually, the dSGEIS requires applicants to fully disclose to DEC all products and combinations used in the high-volume hydraulic fracturing process. In addition, applicants must agree to publicly identify the names of the chemicals. In some cases, an applicant may exempt from publicly disclosing the exact amounts of each chemical in a formula if the applicant can prove the exemption is necessary to protect confidential business information. Even in these cases, all of the chemicals would be publicly disclosed.
Submitted by Louise on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 7:35am
Is there still a chance that the drilling will happen here? We are sitting on the future for many people in this area that have lost so much in the flooding. Your committee has done a great job with the rules and all of our coalitions also have rules that should protect as much as possible. The State needs this so bad and we hope that the Governor lifts the moratorium. You will never make the antis happy -look at what they are doing on Wall Street. I lived in Rockland County my whole life and when they wanted to build the Tappan Zee Bridge people were tied to trees and everything else and look at the great boost that has been to Rockland and Orange County. THank you so much for your time.
Windsor, New York
Gas drilling
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:39am
We are moving forward with the process for studying and mitigating the potential environmental and health impacts of gas drilling in New York state to ensure if high-volume hydraulic fracturing happens in the state, it is done right and safely. We have put out our proposed requirements and are now looking for the public’s feedback on those requirements. This process should be completed sometime in 2012.
Submitted by Kate on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 9:22am
Where will the wastw water from fracking go and who will monitor the trucks carrying it and who will repair the road damage due to greater usage by such trucks?
Meredith, Delaware County
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:37am
As I said earlier, a driller will have to develop an appropriate disposal plan for wastewater before any permit would be issued for high-volume hydraulic fracturing. To track the wastewater, DEC would institute a process to monitor disposal of flowback water and production brine that is similar to the handling of medical waste. The revised draft SGEIS requires drillers to submit detailed transportation plans including assessment of the conditions of the roads to be used, subject to approval by DOT. The dSGEIS encourages drillers to develop road use agreements with municipalities to ensure roads are adequately constructed and maintained to handle the truck traffic. DEC will consider the adequacy of these agreements when it reviews permit applications.
Submitted by scott lauffer on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 4:45pm
Why did you take 3 lawyers with you to this hearing and no geologist, hydrologist or other scientist with an understanding of hydrofracking and the environment?
NYS Assembly Hearing on Hydrofracking
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:32am
Needless to say, geologists, engineers and other scientists worked extensively on the dSGEIS. Several of these staff members were at the hearing. Gene Leff is my Deputy Commissioner for Solid and Hazardous Materials and does happen to be a lawyer but he oversees the Division of Mineral Resources, which is principally responsible for the oversight of gas drilling in New York State. I asked Steve Russo, DEC’s general counsel, to attend the hearing because he oversaw the development of the draft regulations. Marc Gerstman, although a lawyer by training, has vast experience in environmental matters and someone I have worked with for years. As you might suspect, the positions that the agency will be looking to fill to oversee high-volume hydraulic fracturing, should it move forward, are primarily persons with technical training in the sciences.
Submitted by Linda on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 7:59am
Will we be looking at the health impacts of fracking in a serious, comprehensive manner, before we permit drilling in New York State? And how is that to be done?
Dryden NY
Local Control of Zoning re Hydrofracking
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:29am
DEC has fully considered the impact fracking could potentially have on public health and our communities. For example, the State Dept. of Health provided information (Chapter 5 in the dSGEIS) on the potential toxic effects of chemicals used in the process. We examined the history of spills and other problems in other states where the process was used. Most importantly, DEC carefully considered every possible way that people could be exposed to those chemicals and consulted with the State Dept. of Health about how to prevent that exposure. DEC’s approach is to address the potential causes of exposure to prevent them from happening in New York State. If there are no pathways of exposure in the first place, adverse health impacts cannot occur. That is why DEC has designed the most stringent set of requirements in the nation – to prevent contamination of our natural resources and thus eliminate human exposure pathways.
Submitted by Melissa on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 12:17am
I'm wondering if you have viewed any movies about hydrofracking such as "Gasland" or "Split Estate". These movies are real eye openers on the dangers of fracking. The lives of some people have been ruined by it. Our clean drinking water is precious. It is already in becoming very limited globally. To poison our water even further is insane. If they go ahead with it, I may move to another part of the country. So my question is, have you seen the movies? Are you informed?
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:24am
Yes, I have seen Gasland. There certainly were alarming incidents in that film. I agree that New York’s drinking water is a precious resource and that is why we have established the most stringent protections for drinking water in the nation. These protections include multiple engineering barriers – well casings and secondary containments – as well as generous setbacks to prevent water contamination.
Submitted by Brian on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 8:33am
I want to say I support the safe development of natural gas drilling in New York State. And A job well done on the SGEIS. With these new regulations there should be no complaints from the various Anti-Gas groups or some New York State Government officials. but there still is. So my question to you is-- What is being done or could be done to educate these people on the true scientific facts and not the False fear tactics being put out there ??
Safe Gas Drilling
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:20am
Our website has much information on the proposed requirements in the dSGEIS including a series of fact sheets that makes the material easy to understand. In addition, I have spoken publicly on the topic in several forums such as the recent Assembly hearing as well as in multiple interviews with news organizations. My staff and I regularly meet with interested parties and stakeholders to answer questions and discuss the proposed requirements. In addition, four public hearings will be held next month.
Submitted by Christine on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 10:25am
The dSGEIS is over 1,500 pages, yet the public comment period is set at a mere 96 days. Many of the areas which have been hit hardest by Tropical Storm Irene are the same communities where fracking is proposed. The DEC encourages people NOT to print the lengthy document. How will residents who are focusing efforts on rebuilding and lost everything, including computer and internet access with which to read and analyze the lengthy document, be able to make important comments within this short time period?
Short Comment period
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:17am
There is no doubt the recent storms have created hardships in the affected areas. With that in mind, on September 7 we extended the comment period and it will close Dec. 12. Printed copies of the dSGEIS are available at 53 repositories across the state. A complete list of repository locations can be found at http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/administration_pdf/papersgeis072011.pdf.
Submitted by Michael on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 11:33am
How can you allow hydraulic fracturing in some parts of the state and not others? If it poses an environmental risk, it should not be allowed anywhere in NYS. All aquifers, properties, and persons should be granted the same privilege of being protected from the risks hydraulic fracturing poses to our water, land, and air.
Hudson Valley
Hydraulic Fracturing in NYS
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:12am
I am glad you asked this question because there is great confusion on why the draft SGEIS prohibits high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the Syracuse and New York City watersheds. What it really comes down to is sediment control. Syracuse and New York City are the only public water supplies in the state that do not filter their water. With drilling, comes development. Roads and well pads will need to be constructed and truck traffic will increase. All these activities increase sediment – or dirt -- runoff carried by stormwater that flows into the water bodies in these watersheds. New York City and Syracuse do not have the means to deal with this sediment. If these cities were to be forced to filter their water, it would cost billions of dollars. The only way to mitigate this risk is to prohibit drilling in these areas.
Submitted by Jennie Lavine on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 8:03am
Do you think the DEC should review compulsory integration , because there are potential impacts on neighboring lands that have not signed leases?
compulsory integration
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:10am
Compulsory integration has been state law in New York for years. It is intended to ensure that all landowners are compensated for natural resources that are extracted below their property and that New York's gas resources are extracted efficiently. However, no surface drilling can happen on your property without your permission.
Submitted by Sarah on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 12:03pm
Has the impact of flooding on fracking wastewater storage been examined?
Hurley, Ulster County
Fracking Waste Water and Flooding
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:06am
This is an important question in light of the recent extraordinary storms. The short answer is yes. The draft SGEIS prohibits drilling activities in 100-year floodplains. I am not aware of any other state that has this prohibition. Also, in New York, open impoundments containing wastewater will not be utilized. Instead, a "closed-loop system" will ensure that wastewater is stored securely in airtight containers. We will also require secondary containment at the well pads, which is designed to capture any released fluids. Since the flooding, we have been in contact with our counterparts in Pennsylvania to determine if they experienced any problems with fracking fluid releases in the recent storms. They do not know of any cases where there was any problem with fracking fluids as result of the flooding.
Submitted by Paul on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 10:12am
If Fracking was a safe and environmentally sound practice, why do we hear so much discontent from the states that have endured it already?
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:03am
Some other states allowed high-volume hydraulic fracturing before taking the time to develop a rigorous and thorough regulatory program. New York has taken a cautious and deliberate approach to move through this three-year process to develop the strictest standards in the nation.
Submitted by Bill on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 11:00am
What does New York plan to do with millions of gallons of fracking wastewater? •How does New York plan to regulate the toxic chemicals used by the gas industry to frack its gas wells? Some of the chemicals they use are known carcinogens. •The Department of Environmental Conservation is stretched thin due to budget and staff cuts. How do you plan to monitor the gas industry in New York? Thank you!
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 9:01am
The gas drilling industry has made great strides in its reuse of wastewater – 90 percent is recycled – so the volume of wastewater has decreased greatly over the past few years. Each driller must identify where the waste will go before a permit will be issued. DEC will review the proposed wastewater treatment plan to ensure that wastewater is disposed in a way that meets all applicable water quality standards. I have said all along, DEC will only review the number of permits that the size of our staff responsibly allows. In addition, the High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel is working on developing recommendation for staffing and resource needs of all involved state agencies.
Submitted by Joe Martens on Sat, 10/08/2011 - 09:00
Good morning. Thank you for joining me and participating in a discussion on a topic that is of great public interest.