THE BLOG
12/05/2011 06:39 pm ET | Updated Apr 30, 2012

An Open Letter to Gov. Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Martens

Dear Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Martens:

I've read your 1,500-page Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) on how you intend to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HF) for natural gas in our state and offer the following for your consideration.

Indemnification

I couldn't find anything in the SGEIS that proposes requiring compensation for people who might experience damage to their property, contamination of their water, or adverse health affects from what you're attempting.

If you're going to do this, it needs to pay for itself; I'm not young enough anymore to believe you can responsibly undertake something like this without requiring complete and prompt indemnification for people who might be affected.

I don't know what price you place on the health of a man's family, but I called Allstate insurance company to ask if they offered a measure of protection for it and for the other concerns mentioned above.

They don't.

I received the same answer to the same questions after inquiring with both State Farm and then Nationwide insurance companies.

Water Contamination: First-responder Role

The SGEIS indicates you're looking to county health departments to play a first-responder role on water quality issues that might result from HF.

I addressed this point with the DEC two years ago and said they needed to ensure roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and agreed to. So I called a county health department to ask if they were aware and confident about the role you're expecting them to play; are they adequately equipped to do things like distinguish all sources of water contamination due to factors other than HF, as you're requiring them to do?

The answers I received after speaking with several people there ranged from an emphatic "NO" to something sketchy at best.

Conflicts of Interest

I couldn't find anything in the SGEIS that conveyed separation of authority at DEC among people who will be responsible for revenue generation and regulatory oversight and enforcement.

So I called our Division of Minerals Resources requesting clarification; I wanted to avoid misunderstanding on my part. They told me they didn't know, would have to research the matter, and would get back to me.

They never did.

Now we know the results of conflicts that will arise from housing these functions in the same shop can never be good. We also know we've seen that movie play out before at the federal level with BP's disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

Socioeconomic Analysis

Two things caught my attention. First, there was page after page of quantitative estimates and projections all dealing with the benefits of acquiring gas with HF. Second, I couldn't find one line of any such estimate in the entire 251-page report that dealt with costs -- in spite of the fact that, for example, it predicts Region B (which contains Sullivan County, my county) will experience a population increase in peak development years of about 20,000 people. How will this affect our schools, infrastructure, and ability to provide services? All I could find about this in the SGEIS were several lines of narrative suggesting these things might be adversely affected, and I'm wondering about who will pay for them if they are.

A socioeconomic analysis that doesn't adequately size costs isn't credible.

One More Thing

Back to indemnification for just a bit. I do understand why you've both acted on the need to protect yourselves against potential liability. But I'm confused about whether you believe DEC's Website poses greater risks than HF. I'm hoping you'll come around and provide the rest of us with at least the same measure of protection against risks from HF as you've provided to yourselves for those that might arise from the Website. At first this may appear silly, but I assure you there's nothing silly about it. That's because of the disclaimer you've placed on the SGEIS section of the Website; you can read it by going to the web-based form used to submit comments on the SGEIS. It goes like this:

In no event shall the State of New York, its agencies or authorities, employees, officers or agents be liable for any direct, indirect, punitive, incidental, special, or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever including, without limitation, damages for loss of use, data, or profits, arising out of or in any way connected with the use or performance of this Website, or for any information, software, products, services, or graphics obtained through this Website, or otherwise arising out of the use of this Website, whether based on contract, tort, strict liability, or otherwise, even if the state of New York, its agencies or authorities, employees, officers or agents have been advised of the possibility of damages (my emphasis).

Respectfully,

Dave Colavito
Rock Hill, NY