EARTHWORKS

Report Sees Lax Inspections of N.Y. Gas Wells

New York Times Blog | Mireya Navarro

July 19, 2012
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A major concern about the advent of a new type of natural gas drilling in New York is whether the state’s environmental regulators could keep up with a potential boom once this drilling process, known as fracking, is allowed.

A study found that annual inspections of active wells declined from around 3,500 to 2,500 between 2001 and 2010 even as the number of wells rose.Judging from the state’s experience to date in policing conventional drilling, environmental groups say, New York is far from ready.

In a new report, the group Earthworks argues that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency in charge of enforcing fracking regulations, has a staffing shortage and rarely inspects the active conventional gas wells that exist now. From 2001 to 2010, the number of annual inspections of oil and gas wells dropped by more than 1,000, the group found, while the number of wells increased by about 1,000 during the same period.

It said that more than 75 percent of the state’s active oil and gas wells go uninspected each year.

New York, however, is not alone. The group’s oil and gas accountability project has also found inadequate oversight in Colorado and New Mexico. “There is a crisis in this arena that risks public health and the environment,” Earthworks concludes.

New York State officials are still weighing whether and where to allow fracking, and under what conditions.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Conservation, Emily DeSantis, said the agency was aware that it will need more resources once fracking in the Marcellus Shale begins. “From the start, D.E.C. has recognized the need for additional staffing to oversee high-volume hydraulic fracturing operations,” she said in a statement. “We have repeatedly said we will only review the number of permits that we can responsibly oversee given staffing levels if high-volume hydraulic fracturing moves forward in New York.”

She said the state’s proposed fracking rules call for “a comprehensive monitoring and inspection program,” including no fewer than 13 site visits during the drilling of each well.

 


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Tagged with: new york, fracking, enforcement

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