DEC/EPA Hydrofracking Emails: The Outtakes

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In this weekend’s Gannett newspapers, we took a look at a bevy of recently released emails between state and federal regulators, specifically at their correspondence regarding hydrofracking and natural-gas drilling.

Through an open records request, the emails revealed a number of interesting tidbits from the course of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s nearly four year review of high-volume hydrofracking and considers whether it should be allowed to proceed in New York.

Among the findings we wrote about this weekend: DEC Commissioner Joe Martens wrote EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck in January, expressing concern about the regional EPA office holding New York to a higher standard than other states; EPA proposed last June footing the bill for testing private water supplies in New York’s Marcellus Shale, but the program never got off the ground; and a 2010 estimate from DEC Mineral Resources Director Brad Field that suggests the state agency could handle 75 to 100 gas wells with the agency’s staff level.

But there were plenty of outtakes. Here’s a sampling:

  • Last September, an EPA official forwarded a “cyber security” bulletin to the DEC’s Field. The bulletin, produced by the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, was sent by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security & Preparedness after there were apparent “threats specific to the oil and natural gas sub-sector” from Anonymous, the anti-censorship Internet hacking group that has wreaked havoc on a number of governmental websites in the past. The bulletin, which can be found here, is worth a read, if only for its unintentional hilarity. (“Attacks by associated groups such as LulzSec have essentially been executed entirely for their and their associates’ personal amusement, or in their own hacker jargon ‘for the lulz’.”)
  • A large amount of emails included in the FOIL response were simple scheduling messages (i.e. “Are you available for a call tomorrow?”). But there were a handful of entertaining exchanges between EPA and DEC officials. For example: EPA Region 2 Drinking Water and Ground Water Chief Bruce Kiselica in August 2010 sent a news report to the DEC’s Field, which detailed a report that found gas drillers committed 1,435 violations in 2.5 years. “(D)on’t want this to be New York,” Kiselica wrote. Field responded: “What, you don’t think we should enforce our environmental laws?”
  • In another email to Field — this one from May 2010 — Kiselica wrote a message with the subject line, “Gasland is coming to NY and PA soon.” Gasland, the 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary that shines a negative light on the gas industry and hydrofracking, was beginning to be screened in the Northeast at the time. “(C)heck it out,” Kiselica wrote. “(G)et your tickets early.”
Here’s a sampling — a greatest hits, of sorts — of the emails released under FOIL:

DECEPAemails-2

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