Broome County refuses to share shale lease details
Broome County is refusing to release details about an aborted deal to lease public land for natural gas drilling, reports Jon Campbell at the Press & Sun-Bulletin:
In a letter sent Tuesday, assistant county attorney Holly Zurenda-Cruz cited portions of the state Freedom of Information Law that allow agencies to withhold documents if disclosure would "impair present or imminent contract awards" or "cause substantial injury" to a business's competitive position. "Broome County still owns acreage suitable for natural gas development," Zurenda-Cruz wrote. "Disclosure of e-mails may impair the competitive balance of future negotiations with any natural gas development company. This would damage the taxpayer and developer that already negotiated with the county."
Martens confirmation at DEC
The state's draft environmental impact statement on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale is 85 percent complete. That's according to newly confirmed Department of Environmental chief Joe Martens, speaking to Gannett's Nick Reisman. The report is expected in June.
Meanwhile, Reisman reports at the Democrat and Chronicle's Vote Up! blog that Binghamton state senator Thomas Libous says he's in favor of boosting the budget for the DEC if it would mean that permitting for drilling could proceed more quickly:
Libous, who was initially skeptical with the open-space advocate, said Martens’ he was pleased with Martens’ confirmation. “He recognizes that they have experts at DEC, both scientists and geologists,” Libous said. “I’m always optimistic that we’ll be granting permits for natural gas exploration in the Marcellus Shale.” The agency’s staff has been reduced greatly over the last several years, which agency officials have said would make it difficult to adequately enforce and grant permits - which has produced concern from both environmentalists and energy companies.
The federal EPA is asking Pennsylvania to keep a closer eye on fracking wastewater, where it's legal to release the waste into rivers. David Caruso reports at Forbes:
State regulators and the industry have insisted the practice is safe and adequately regulated, but an EPA regional administrator, Shawn Garvin, said in a letter to Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection on Monday that it was concerned about the potential for harm to human health and the aquatic environment. "Many of these substances are not completely removed by wastewater treatment facilities, and their discharge may cause or contribute to impaired drinking water quality for downstream users, or harm aquatic life," Garvin wrote. He said Pennsylvania's drinking water utilities should start sampling immediately for radium, a naturally existing radioactive substance sometimes found in drilling water prior to treatment. Similar testing should be required at the treatment plants handling the waste, he said.
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