DEC issued its Final SGEIS today which is available for review on its website. There was no mystery as to the outcome because the decision that the State would not authorize the technique in New York State was announced by the Commissioners of Health and Environmental Conservation at a December 17, 2014 cabinet meeting of the New York Governor.
While the document is voluminous, the 34-page Executive Summary explains why DEC is not permitting a natural gas extraction technique that is permitted by the federal government and every state with a significant shale play. That rationale is scientific “uncertainty.” Here is an excerpt from the FEIS:
“During [the time since 2009 when DEC reviewed comments on two versions of the DEIS], a broad range of experts from academia, industry, environmental organizations, municipalities, and the medical and public health professions commented and/or provided their analyses of high-volume hydraulic fracturing. The comments referenced an increasing number of ongoing scientific studies across a wide range of professional disciplines. These studies and expert comments evidence that significant uncertainty remains regarding the level of risk to public health and the environment that would result from permitting high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York, and regarding the degree of effectiveness of proposed mitigation measures. In fact, the uncertainty regarding the potential significant adverse environmental and public health impacts has been growing over time.”
DEC also relied upon the findings in DOH’s public health assessment, which concluded that “until the science provides sufficient information to determine the level of risk to public health from HVHF to all New Yorkers and whether the risks can be adequately managed . . . HVHF should not proceed in New York State.” DEC concurred with that assessment, concluding that the “uncertainty revolving around potential public health impacts stems from many of the significant adverse environmental risks identified in the SGEIS for which the Department proposed and considered extensive mitigation measures.”
Of course, there is always uncertainty and disagreement among professionals, and there is risk from any mineral extraction technique. It remains to be seen whether “uncertainty” and “risk” alone can form an adequate basis to prohibit a mineral extraction technique throughout an entire state.