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Governor Signs Drilling Bill But Orders Environmental Update

Governor David Paterson signed a bill this afternoon to streamline the application process for drilling in New York’s Marcellus Shale, but he also ordered the state to update its 1992 generic environmental impact statement in the process.

The directive comes one day after the release of a joint investigation by ProPublica and WNYC radio into the state’s regulatory and environmental oversight of the gas industry. The report found that the state was relying on a 16-year-old environmental review and had not addressed the large quantities of water needed for the drilling, or the treatment of that water as toxic waste.

In a release that accompanied the announcement of the bill’s signing, Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Pete Grannis promised that “DEC will be vigilant in ensuring environmental safeguards. Water protection will be a top priority.”

“The update will examine potential impacts from new horizontal drilling techniques, including potential impacts to groundwater, surface water, wetlands, air quality, aesthetics, noise, traffic and community character, as well as cumulative impacts. The update will occur as part of a public process that ensures that concerns raised by residents who could be affected by drilling activities are heard and considered.

“In addition, DEC is reviewing a variety of other areas, including staff resources, existing regulations, jurisdiction over water withdrawals, permit application fees and procedures, and legal and regulatory compliance, that could be implicated by increased drilling activity.”

There’s more to say about what this all really means, so check back for developments tomorrow.

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