Public Input

The SEQR law gives each and every individual in New York State the opportunity to individually comment on SEQR issues before, during and after the study has been published. In fact, this was done in New York State as a draft scoping document was sent out for public review in October 2008 and public scoping sessions were held in six venues in the Southern Tier and Catskills. A total of 188 comments were received at these sessions, together with 2,770 written comments regarding the proposed scope of the SEQR review. On September 30, 2009, a draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DSGEIS) was released for public review and four public hearings were held. 425 people attended these public hearings and more that 200 verbal comments were delivered. In addition, 15,000 written comments were also received by the DEC. The revised draft SGEIS was published in June of 2011, and public comments on the revisions are being accepted until January 11, 2012. In the meantime, a moratorium has been imposed on permits for high volume hydraulic fracturing in New York State. It is anticipated that a final SGEIS will be published sometime in 2012, which will incorporate all the volumes of the 1992 GEIS. Use this link to make your comments by January 11, 2012.

New York State Approach to Permitting

New York State’s approach to hydraulic fracturing permitting appears to differ from the approach other states have taken.  As of this date, we are well aware of the reported incidents involving natural gas exploration using hydraulic fracturing in other states such as Pennsylvania,Texas and Colorado, as well as others.  Hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling as a technique is new, but these other states issue permits based upon the knowledge base and experience accumulated from vertical well drilling. New York State, however, has the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR), which required a full analysis of the horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing of the deep, low permeability shale found in the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations.  This review of the science and current knowledge base related to horizontal drilling prior to issuing drilling permits gives New York State an opportunity to prevent accidental spills, evaluate risks and propose mitigations to minimizing risks before issuing permits.

My Background

I am an attorney admitted to practice in New York State and I began representing landowners in the late 1980s with respect to oil and gas lease negotiations. Land owners from across New York State began to call me to negotiate their leases for oil and gas exploration. I was doing so much leasing work that I authored an article entitled “Should You Lease Your Land?” which appeared in the January/February 2001 issue of Forest Owner, the New York Forest Owners Association’s magazine. For the first 20 years of negotiating oil and gas leases, I primarily concentrated on leases that concerned vertical wells in the Medina, Theresa, and Trenton-Black River formations.

In early 2009, word began to spread that high volume hydraulic fracturing was a proven stimulation technique that greatly increased the ability to extract natural gas from very tight rock. This combined with horizontal drilling and a multi-well pad development increased production of domestic natural gas reserves from deep underground shale deposits. This has dramatically altered the future energy supply projections and has the promise of lowering the cost for users and purchasers of this energy commodity. This news was accompanied by geological maps indicating that large portions of the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale formations were located within New York State borders. In fact, each shale formation is names after a New York State municipality. I began to field inquiries on leasing opportunities in the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations and formed the Western New York Oil and Gas Coalition of landowners wishing to aggregate their acres available to lease to increase their bargaining power.

Purpose of This Blog

This blog will examine the conclusions published in the 2011 updated Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSGEIS). I will focus my comments and attention primarily to areas of change identified by the DEC in the 2011 DSGEIS from the 2009 DSGEIS and try to correlate those changes to how they impact drilling in the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale formations that cover so much of New York State. I will also focus on topical issues, industry trends, scientific findings, relevant commentary and market activity related to the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale explorations efforts in New York State and any issues related thereto. Please feel free to comment on any subject raised as my intent is to relay factual, relevant, supportable information to the general public to provide them with solid information.

What Does the DSGEIS Mean to a Landowner?

It is hard to summarize the most salient features of a report that runs 1100 pages in length. Based on my extensive experience in negotiating oil and gas leases for landowners, I intend to focus on the major issues that I have dealt with in representing landowners and how they are addressed in the DSGEIS. If the reader feels that the DSGEIS has not addressed any subject adequately they can make an appropriate comment to the DEC before January 11, 2012.