New York has been all over the map recently regarding development of Marcellus formation natural gas.  Over the last several weeks there have been legislative proposals to extend a State-wide moratorium on the development of the Marcellus Formation via hydrofracking.  There have also been proposals to define “all” hydrofracking wastes as hazardous wastes.  Others have been pushing to start development of the Marcellus formation, and for an end to a moratorium on that development.

At the same time the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“NYSDEC”) has been working to revise a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“SGEIS”) originally developed in 2009 to evaluate the impacts of hydrofracking.  NYSDEC was “asked” by Governor Andrew Cuomo to complete this revision by July 1, 2011.  According to NYSDEC, the 2009 SGEIS “did not adequately consider the community and socioeconomic impacts” of hydrofracking.  Apparently, after DEC staff spent approximately 10,250 hours updating and revising a SGEIS which is now up to more than 900 pages in length, they feel they have the solution.

According to NYSDEC (and as reported in the N.Y. Times) the SGEIS will recommend allowing hydrofracking in New York State with some very significant limitations and requirements:

  • No hydrofracking in the New York City and Syracuse Watersheds, nor within primary water supply aquifers;
  • “Surface drilling” would not be allowed on State-owned land (but can horizontal wells extend beneath State land?); and
  • There will be “rigorous and effective” control of hydrofracking on private property.

NYSDEC estimates that at least 85% of the Marcellus formation in New York will be “accessible” for development, but that is a long way off, as NYSDEC will need to issue a package of  regulations to implement this program.