Former top official at DEC talks natural gas drilling

New Paltz, NY – The conversation on natural gas drilling in New York continues outside of Albany. WAMC's Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Greg Fry reports on a study released this week, industry response, and a roundtable discussion being held tonight in the lower Hudson Valley

Right now in New York, mostly everybody with an eye on the future of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale is waiting for the summer. That's when the Department of Environmental Conservation is expected to complete a new environmental impact statement regarding drilling in New York, addressing the concerns of industry officials, environmental advocates, federal, state, and municipal leaders, and residents in areas to be impacted by drilling.

Stu Gruskin is the former Executive Deputy Commissioner of the New York State DEC. Gruskin is now a part of an Albany-based consulting firm. He'll be one of four speakers at an event at the Pace University Law School in White Plains Thursday night, which is focused on the future of drilling in New York. Gruskin says the DEC has had a mountain of work to sort through, including public comments, and what's happening in other states around the country. Still, he believes the mission has stayed the same at the agency.

One environmental issue raised this week is the potential impact on global warming. Cornell University Professor Robert Howarth has concluded that natural gas from shale has a larger greenhouse gas footprint than other fossil fuels, even coal. Howarth says that's because of the methane gas released during the process of hydraulic fracturing. He says this is by no means the final word on the issue.

Industry officials were quick to say that the Cornell study uses data unrelated to the Marcellus Shale, and manipulated numbers to reach a conclusion. Both a link to Howarth's research and industry responses can be found below.

Cornell study

Response to Cornell study from Energy In Depth

Gruskin says studies like the one from Cornell, and legislation pending in the state senate, all have their place, but says the public must review materials itself to draw conclusions on completed issues.

One issue at the top of the list for many environmental advocates concerned about fracking is the potential risk of drinking water contamination. The Environmental Protection Agency is in the middle of its study of that specific issue. To Gruskin, it's an issue, in some ways, that has been overstated, and has obscured some of the other issues that he says are equally important.

Gruskin will be joined tonight by attorneys for EarthJustice and Chesapeake Energy, and also the attorney for residents in Dimock, Pennsylvania, who have been impacted by contaminated wells in their community. The roundtable discussion begins at 6:30. A link to a live webcast of the event is below.

Pace University Law Webcast, Thursday, April 14