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DEC regs to be issued July 1; zoning rights supported

June 30, 2011

ALBANY, NY — The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) tomorrow, Friday, July 1, will release its revised recommendations on mitigating the environmental impacts of high-volume hydraulic fracturing(high-volume fracturing). The recommendations contain these major revisions:

High-volume fracturing would be prohibited in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, including a buffer zone;

Drilling would be prohibited within primary aquifers and within 500 feet of their boundaries;

Surface drilling would be prohibited on state-owned land including parks, forest areas and wildlife management areas;

High-volume fracturing will be permitted on privately held lands under rigorous and effective controls; and DEC will issue regulations to codify these recommendations into state law.

Approximately 85 percent of the Marcellus Shale would be accessible to natural gas extraction under these recommendations.

Among the provisions is one that would require natural gas drillers certify that a well drilling operation is consistent with local zoning. This provision, if finally adopted, would support the position that local municipalities can or cannot restrict natural gas as a land use within certain zones, a matter that has been a bone of contention.

Acdording to Helen Slottje of the Community Environmental Defense Council, which has been working with local towns to construct ordinances banning drilling as high-impact industrial use, "Under NYS law the DEC may not refuse to issue a permit because it conflicts with local law – the courts have said the DEC must issue the permit and then leave the dispute to the town and permit holder. Therefore, this is the strongest position DEC can take."

The section in question reads:

“Local Land Use & Zoning: Applicant must certify that a proposed activity is consistent
with local land use and zoning laws. Failure to certify or a challenge by a locality would
trigger additional DEC review before a permit could be issued.”
To see a full copy of the DEC press release, click here.