Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has ordered an expansion of the state’s ongoing review of hydraulic fracturing after a natural gas well blowout in April sent chemical-laced water into a Pennsylvania creek, according to an internal memo sent this week.
In the memo sent Friday to Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens, Director of State Operations Howard Glaser ordered the department to complete an on-site inspection of the Bradford County, Pa. gas well, and to include any information from the site in the DEC’s environmental review of hydrofracking.
Glaser also asked for a second draft of that review, called the Suplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, to be “completed for issuance by July 1, 2011,” marking the first hard deadline placed on the DEC’s hydrofracking study since it was first launched in July 2008.
“It is important that DEC take into account information concerning the incident in Pennsylvania and, to that end, I hereby direct DEC to review the issues raised and any lessons learned from the accidents in Pennsylvania and ensure that these issues are adequately addressed in the revised draft” review, Glaser wrote.
The memo was first reported Saturday by The Associated Press and later obtained by Gannett’s Albany Bureau.
The April 19 blowout received national attention after a Chesapeake Energy gas well in LeRoy Township spewed about 10,000 gallons of chemical water used in the hydrofracking process, leading to the temporary evacuation of seven nearby homes. The incident is still under investigation by the state of Pennsylvania.
High-volume hydrofracking is used by industry to break up tight shale formations and release natural gas. The process involves the blasting of millions of gallons of chemically treated water deep underground to reach the formations, such as the Marcellus Shale, which sits New York’s Southern Tier and portions of the Hudson Valley.
A DEC spokesman said the department will immediately comply with Glaser’s memo.
“I can confirm DEC has received the memo, (and) we are in the process of executing the expanded review as directed,” said Michael Bopp, the DEC spokesman. “Plans for the site visits to Pennsylvania will be made over the next several days.”
Martens has said several times since taking control of the department earlier this year that the second draft of the review was on track to be completed by the end of the summer. An executive order issued by former Gov. David Paterson and extended by Cuomo initially called for the draft to be put out for public consumption “on or about June 1.”
Bopp said Saturday that the department is “executing the process as directed by the memo” when it comes to the established deadline. A Cuomo spokesman said the actual review must be finished by July 1, but it won’t necessarily be released to the public by that date.
The memo from Cuomo’s office to the DEC can be found below: