Fracking roundup: Industry rep still “optimistic;” Lawmakers want health review opened up


It was another busy day for hydrofracking news at the state Capitol. Here’s a roundup:

– State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced Tuesday that his office had settled a shareholder resolution it filed with Cabot Oil & Gas, a Houston-based energy company that has been very active along the New York border in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Marcellus Shale.

The company, according to DiNapoli’s office, has agreed to publicly disclose “its policy and procedures for eliminating or minimizing the use of toxic substances in its hydraulic fracturing fluids.”

“Cabot has taken a positive step to reduce risk to shareholders, the environment and the communities in which it operates,” DiNapoli said. “This agreement means that Cabot will publicly release what it is doing to use less toxic substances in its hydraulic fracturing fluids and detail how it is ensuring these efforts are being carried out.”

The state’s main pension fund owns 681,692 shares of Cabot worth $35.8 million. DiNapoli, the fund’s sole trustee, filed a shareholder petition with the company this year seeking more information on what its doing to make its fracking fluid less toxic.

In his petition, which DiNapoli has now withdrawn, DiNapoli cited Cabot’s troubles in Dimock, Pa. — a small township that gained international attention when water wells on a rural road near a drilling rig were contaminated with methane.

Also Tuesday, New York City Comptroller John Liu filed a shareholder resolution of his own with Exxon Mobil, calling on the company to release data to detailing its safety measures and safeguards built into the fracking process.

– Brad Gill, the executive director of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, was in town to meet with lawmakers, a day after state Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens raised the possibility of the state missing a key February deadline for the state’s proposed fracking rules.

Still, Gill said the industry remains “optimistic” the state will hit the Feb. 27 deadline. (In order to meet the deadline, the Department of Environmental Conservation would have to release a lengthy environmental review by Feb. 13.)

“Now is the time for us to just to wait and see what transpires,” Gill said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s been a marathon, not a sprint here. At this point we are just hopeful that this really happens and we are certainly going to sit back and wait for the 13th and the 27th, whatever real deadline is out there.”

Gill said missing the deadline would be “another delay in a long series” in the state’s review of fracking. The DEC first launched its environmental review in 2008, putting permits for large-scale fracking on hold.

“In the meantime, we’re all doing what we have to do,” Gill said. “Our members are working, working elsewhere, working in other states wanting to come to New York.”

– Frustrated by the state’s reluctance to share a health review of the DEC’s work before it’s completed, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, led a news conference with a number of her legislative colleagues on Tuesday calling on the state to open the process up.

Lifton unveiled a letter signed by 65 state lawmakers, which calls on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to make more information public about the behind-the-scenes review, as well as open the document up to public comment and at least one public hearing. Until then, they want the review process put on hold.

“The Legislature and the public at-large must have complete faith in the integrity of this crucial proceeding,” the letter reads. “That is why there must be no rush to complete the (Department of Health) review.”

You can read the full letter after the jump.

Lifton by


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  1. I want to thank all the Assemblymen,women and the Senators for asking the questions that your constituents want the Governor to hear. I especially want to thank you ,Barbara Lifton, you are the light in the darkness of Hydraulic Fracturing. Your comments yesterday to Commissioner Martens was a welcome delight to the public, like me, who sat listening to your concerns which we share. Given all of this , my question is still HOW WILL THERE BE ADEQUATE OVERSIGHT FROM THE DEC, WHO’S BUDGET HAS BEEN CUT 20 %. I’m so fearful that we New Yorkers will see the same results to our lands, our water and our air as Penn. and N. Dakota.

  2. Thank you so much, Assemblymember Lifton, for your leadership. As a resident of Broome County, I so appreciate Ms. Lifton’s letter and all its signatories for calling on the governor to protect us from the health impacts that have been seen in other states in fracking areas. The current moratorium must stay in place while a scientific, comprehensive, and cumulative environmental impact study, including a Health Impact Assessment and a climate change impact study, is completed, in compliance with Executive Order 41. Only then can a final decision on the subject be made.

    I was surprised that Mr. Gill was in a polite mood today. Last we heard, he was angry and slamming the DEC over the proposed regulations. I wonder what changed his tune……

  3. 65 State legislators signed the letter. And if DEC, Martens, and Cuomo think that the public will be fooled into thinking that those 204,000 comments on the regs have actually been reviewed and responded to by Feb 27, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I could sell them. No thinking person will buy the idea that since September of last year there has been anything fair, open or transparent about the process to finalize the regs before the health impact study is finished and before it and the rest of the SGEIS has been made available to the public. Even the legislators have no more clue than we do. The hearing yesterday made it very clear that DEC and NYS are nowhere near ready to permit dilling. Thank you to Assemblywoman Lifton and the other Assemblymen and Senators who showed us a bit of what has been going on behind the curtain.

  4. Barbara Lifton was a significant bright start at the Senate budget hearing for DEC. Tough questions are necessary and she delivered. There was just no way for the large audience to remain quiet after she ended her closing remarks to Joe Martens. She rightly received a standing ovation! Two thumbs up!

    The question of the DOH health review seems still a clouded mystery as to how much is being reviewed, what exactly is being looked at and when it will be public and issued. No one seems to have a direct answer (DOH or DEC). So the question of deadlines seems very obscured at this point. It was surprising to hear Joe Martens be so casual about that.

  5. Miriam Barrows on

    This women was wonderful. I sat in the assembly room hearing her try to get a firm answer from Joe Martens. He could not or would not give her a clear answer to her questions.

    Miriam Barrows
    Erieville, NY
    Town of Nelson

  6. Thank you to the 65 New York State Legislators who are telling Cuomo to listen to the people of New York, not just the gas industry. The veil of secrecy surrounding the SGEIS must be lifted and Cuomo must hear the voices of the people whose lives will be affected by the dangers of fracking.

  7. I, too, applaud Ms. lifton’s comments and questions to Commissioner Martens on Monday! Kudos and appreciation also to the several other senators and assemblypersons who called Martens out on the secrecy behind the DOH “study,” and on many other falsehoods and ambiguity associated with the SGEIS and DOH study. Thank you! Marten’s usual answer of “We don’t know; it hasn’t been done in NY yet” was such a copout and an evasion. We can’t LEARN from the problems the other states have had!? What does he propose we do; allow fracking and THEN find out how expensive and destructive the process is to our environment, health, wildlife, agribusiness, tourism, and infrastructure? Talk about shortsighted!!! BAN FRACKING NOW!!