Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Testimony at Department of Environmental Conservation’s 11/30 Hearings on High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (“Fracking”): The LONG and the SHORT of It

(Above, evening hearing attendees in the 900 seat auditorium)

I presented Noticing New York and National Notice testimony last Wednesday when the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation held a day’s worth of afternoon and evening hearings in Manhattan concerning Governor Cuomo's proposal to start allowing High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing, aka “Fracking,” in New York for the first time by lifting the current moratorium under which it is effectively banned. The next day I posted my testimony about introduction to the state of that new, still largely untested technology here at Noticing New York while promising that I would update the post to include an account of those hearings (with pictures) together with substantial amplification of the points in the testimony presented (which testimony appears again below). As of yesterday those updates were available, see: Thursday, December 1, 2011, Wednesday’s Department of Environmental Conservation Hearings on High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (“Fracking”): Noticing New York’s Testimony Plus. .

(People lined up after me Wednesday morning to get into DEC's first hearing, the afternoon hearing on introducing the new technology of fracking to New York state.)

If you want to read an account of the hearing (almost everyone spoke against fracking) that is more thorough than you will find elsewhere, along with a comprehensive discussion of just how important the concerns are that the state is facing, click on the above link to read that updated article. But if you are interested in just the tantalizing pith of things you can confine yourself to reading the testimony I provided below. In one sense this is the “short” of it.

(Above, DEC hearing officials, DEC’s Deputy Counsel Russo and hearing officer on far right, ready to give a limited number of speakers three minutes apiece.)
The testimony is organized to highlight in just three minutes (the total time permitted speakers testifying) the breadth of devastation the state faces if this poisoning technology is introduced to the state. (If video of my testimony becomes available I will update this post to link to it.) But, as reading the much longer article I have made available will make clear, three minutes is hardly adequate to consider all the dire facts in full. Therefore the other article is, in one sense, the “long” of it.

In another sense the “long” and “short” of it is this . . . If permitted, the facking industry with its predicted financial collapse will likely be in and then out of the state in a very short period of time, during which it will do an unbelievable amount of environmental damage, that being the “short” of it. But the incredible destruction besetting New York State as a result, including the destruction of the state’s increasingly more precious drinking water and water richness, will last for thousands of years, and that’s the “long” of it.

Happy reading, whichever of these articles you have time for.

Testimony of Noticing New York and National Notice

Here is our own testimony supplied at the afternoon hearing.

November 30, 2011

New York State
Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, New York 12233-6510

Re: November 30, 2011- Hearing Regarding High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing SGEIS

Dear Department of Environmental Conservation:

This comment is being offered in the name of Noticing New York, and National Notice, independent entities dedicated to insistence on good economic development policies in New York and the nation as a whole.

I offer this testimony as an attorney experienced in real estate, as an urban planner and as former senior government official who worked for more than a quarter of century in the areas of public finance and development for the state’s finance authorities.
1. With the introduction of fracking New York State is about to suffer a colossal hit and run at the hands of the fossil fuel industry.

2. Most hit and runs are accidents. Not this one. This one comes at us premeditated and well financed.

3. When I was in government my departing boss left me in charge of the legal department for my agencies with a critical piece of advice: “Just because someone tells you that you have to make a decision immediately, don’t think you have to: You’ll be better off waiting.” Indeed, I knew from experience negotiating hundreds of deals: When someone is trying to rush you to make a decision the rush is going to be to their benefit and your detriment.

4. There are reasons the fracking companies want to do their dirty work fast:
a. They want to get in before people realize how extraordinarily damaging fracking will be to the environment, (most of that damage is very long term and too much of it, like leaking wells, won’t show up immediately: 5% of new wells leak but 50% leak eventually), and

b. They are aware that fracking, even though it was just invented, is about to be an obsolete technology. I refer you to economist Paul Krugman’s recent [November 6, 2011] “Here Comes the Sun” column for two propositions:
∙ That if the fracking industry were forced to internalize its huge external detriments and cost to the public it is probably not economic now, and
∙ Solar cell technology is advancing so fast that even without that internalization fracking will soon be uneconomic anyway.
5. Virtually no corner of the state will be unaffected by fracking’s external costs:
a. Decades of water pollution, poisoning:
∙ essential underground drinking water aquifers, and
∙ drinking water in rivers and streams- water treatment facilities will be wrecked.
b. Massive quantities of water usurpation
c. Radiation poisoning in the form of released radium and radon (lasting for thousands of years).
d. Earthquakes and instability of the land.
e. Significant poisonous air pollution.
f. Release of carcinogens.
g. Greenhouse gas pollution releasing climate change-causing carbon that was safely sequestered for 400 million years.
6. There is a sales pitch about economic benefits but fracking is a resource extraction economy that builds up no long-term benefit compensating for the damage it will leave in its wake or the businesses it will drive out.

7. Some might say the fracking companies want to get started before the science on this brand new technology is in. I’d suggest they want to get started before the science that’s already in gets out.

8. Fracking is too destructive to be permitted at all but it certainly should not be permitted without significant protections not now in place or proposed, including:
a. Prohibitions on confidentiality covenants that prohibit the true facts from getting out, and
b. Lessor remorse covenants that allow landowners to terminate lessees upon the unveiling of any misrepresentations of science or facts by the industries.


Michael D. D. White

PS: Attached are two of the articles I have written about the proposal to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing, both of which are available on the web:
∙ Monday, November 21, 2011, Fracking Double Whammy: New York Loses Two Aces In The Hole When Confronting Climate Change (i.e.Weather Weirding/Global Warming)

∙ Friday, July 29, 2011, Conundrum: If Gov. Andrew Cuomo Traded The Moratorium on Hydrofracking To Get Gay Marriage Would That Be Good Or a Bad Thing?

(Hazmat suited protester. The first thing many saw approaching the hearing location)

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