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Let the Fracking Begin

The Ithaca-based Community Environmental Defense Council—also known as the husband-and -wife legal team of David and Helen Slottje—sent a letter last week to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the state Inspector General, laying out what they considered to be DEC’s violations of state law in the agency’s effort to create a framework for permitting and regulating deep-well, high-volume hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in New York State’s Marcellus Shale formation.

The letter is the first step toward a lawsuit, certainly one of many to come, that will seek to send the DEC back to the drawing table.

Here are some of the Slottjes’ arguments:

• State law requires the DEC to hold a public hearing within 30 days of its publication of a “rule making notice”; the notice for fracking was published December 12, but there has been no public hearing.

• State law requires that the DEC cite the science and studies that are the basis the regulations they propose. Not only did the DEC fail to provide such citations, the Slottjes argue, but they failed to respond to requests for the science and studies they used, though state law requires the DEC to satisfy such a request within 30 days.

• State law requires the DEC to include local governments in its rule-making process; local government officials, including the New York Association of Towns, testified before the State Assembly that they had been excluded from the rule-making process by the DEC.

• The DEC failed to revise its initial estimate of fracking economic impact, which comprised numbers, unparsed and unadjusted, provided by the drilling industry. The DEC also failed to assess the potential costs to local government, which might shoulder the costs associated with drilling because the DEC’s proposed regulations do not include taxes and fees on production to fund state regulators to oversee the new drilling or to mitigate the costs of mishaps when they occur.

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