DEC’s Martens says he’s satisfied with fracking consultants’ response

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We caught up with state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens earlier Friday, whose agency has had an interesting week.

Each day, Martens has been in a different part of the state as part of a week of events marking Earth Day. On Monday, the DEC unveiled a 200+ page wildlife guide that will arrive in bookstores in May. Other events were held in the Adirondacks and New Paltz throughout the week, and he was in Albany Friday to mark Arbor Day.

At the same time, the DEC has faced questions over a trio of consultants that have worked on its review of large-scale hydraulic fracturing, a process that has stretched on for nearly five years. The three companies — Ecology and Environment, Alpha Geoscience and URS Corporation — all were listed on a letter sent Monday to Gov. Andrew Cuomo by the Independent Oil & Gas Association, a top industry lobbying group that was calling on Cuomo to allow high-volume fracking in New York.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the DEC released letters from all three consultants (one, two, three) disavowing the IOGA letter and saying the trade group misrepresented them as members. (All have, or had, employees as members, but none had a corporate membership, according to the correspondence.)

On Friday, Martens’ said he was satisfied with the response.

“As far as I’m concerned, they answered the question,” he said. “They were put on a letter to the governor without being consulted, they asked to be removed and they were removed.”

Environmental groups were not quite as satisfied.

“Governor Cuomo has kept his promise to wait for the science before he makes a decision on fracking, and this is just one more example of political players in Albany putting their self-interests above the state’s needs,” Katherine Nadeau, water and natural resources program director for Environmental Advocates of New York, said in a statement. “Governor Cuomo can be a hero, and say enough is enough.”

Martens had said in 2012 that he would ask Ecology and Environment, which completed a study for the DEC on the positive economic impacts of fracking, to take a harder look at potential negative impacts. On Friday, he confirmed that the company has completed the work, but declined to say what it had found.

“I don’t want to give you pieces because there’s lots of stuff that’s been updated since we put out the last version of the SGEIS,” Martens said. “We had all of those thousands and thousands of public comments, and there’s lots of new information added in the report.”

Here’s a quick video of a piece of Martens’ comments Friday:

(Photo by Jessica Bakeman/Gannett)

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