Fracking Can Be Responsible, Says NY Enviro Commish

Published August 29, 2011

New York Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Joe Martens is spreading the word that natural gas production through hydraulic fracturing techniques can be environmentally responsible. 

In an interview with ProPublica, Martens said he is comfortable proposed New York regulations will allow natural gas production in an environmentally responsible manner.

No Chemical Migration Responding to assertions that chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process, otherwise known as fracking, might migrate from underground shale rock into the water table, Martens said, “There is no evidence that we found that fracking fluids can migrate through that . . . distance and those zones. That is not to say that there aren’t shallow migration problems. We just don’t see any risk from the deep horizontal well that is very far underground and migration up to the lowest level of fresh water. Obviously, lots of technically competent people are looking at this. I think they looked at virtually everything that is out there.”

Extra Precautions Taken

Martens emphasized New York environmental officials are nevertheless taking great care to provide ample environmental protection related to fracking sites.

“The draft SGEIS [Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement for natural gas production] does address the risks associated with underground gas migration through stringent well construction requirements and other protections,” said Martens.

“In addition, the revised SGEIS would require hydraulic fracturing pumping operations to be monitored for pressure and flow during pumping and an immediate suspension of fracturing if any anomalous pressure occurs,” Martens explained.

Feds Taking Additional Look

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting its own review of the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing. New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) spokesperson Emily DeSantis said New York is ahead of EPA in its environmental review process.

“The Department of Environmental Conservation is to identify all of the potential impacts associated with high volume hydraulic fracturing and to develop mitigation measures to address those impacts,” DeSantis explained. 

“We would certainly review that document when the EPA puts it out and look to see if there’s anything that could improve our process out of that document,” DeSantis explained. However, she added, “We’ve been looking at this issue much longer. And what we’ve put forward so far [are] … the highest standards in the nation.” 

Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.