An outside consultant has been asked to take a harder look at the costs communities would have to deal with if hydrofracking is given the green light, the state’s top environmental watchdog said today.
DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said Ecology & Environment, a Buffalo firm that had already produced a report on the economic benefits of gas drilling, has already started looking at the impact the industry would have on things like the housing market and emergency services at the request of the agency.
The move came after some members of the DEC’s High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel had criticized the agency for not doing enough to quantify the costs of drilling and fracking. In places like Pennsylvania, where large-scale drilling has already been allowed, available housing has quickly been gobbled up and rent rates have risen, with the added activity putting a strain on police and EMS.
“We provided E & E with feedback on areas that we’d like them to look at, and I think universally it was felt that some of the specific socioeconomic impacts should be expanded upon,” Martens said today after the panel met in Albany behind closed doors. “These were specific socioeconomic impacts with things like emergency response, housing. It was very specific information that I think folks felt as if the initial study was just a little thin on, so we’re trying to bolster it.”
The DEC commissioned the firm to do a study of the economic benefits of gas drilling, and the company found that allowing high-volume hydrofracking in New York would create anywhere from 6,000 to 36,000 direct jobs.
The study was included as part of the DEC’s ongoing review of hydrofracking. The agency has proposed a set of regulations and recommendations, and high-volume hydrofracking won’t be allowed in the state until the review is finalized.
When asked when the review would be finalized — a question that has been thrown his way many times now, as Martens correctly pointed out — the commissioner couldn’t say.
“I get asked this question every time, and every time I get asked, the number of comments grows,” he said. “We’re near 16,000 comments now; we had 13,000 for the original (2009 draft review.)”
The agency has to review and respond to each comment before finalizing its document.
“It will take months, so I can’t say whether it’s going to be three months, four months, five months, but it will take months to do it properly and make sure we have a document at the end of the day that is truly responsive to the input we’ve gotten from the public,” Martens said.