Flurry of Events in NY Demonstrates Enormous Public Concern over Marcellus Shale Drilling

My colleagues and I like to remind ourselves how, when we first starting hearing murmurs about possible major new gas drilling in upstate New York a little over two years ago, we questioned whether this was an issue in which NRDC should become involved.  We worried that we didn’t have the resources to take on another big campaign, and wondered whether it was an issue better left to state and local groups.  Boy, does that seem like a lifetime ago.

Since deciding we needed to get involved in the Marcellus game (based largely on our western colleagues’ admonitions that drilling in the Marcellus Shale would potentially inalterably change the face of New York’s environment), it has become arguably the highest profile environmental issue in the state/region, and certainly one of the most significant in NRDC’s New York region work.

Coverage of the issue has increased exponentially over the past two years, reflected not only by the award-winning work by ProPublica, but in papers of influence across the state, including the New York Times (and its editorial page), the Daily News (and its editorial page ), the Albany Times Union, and numerous other regional papers.

And with this expanded coverage has come greatly increased public awareness of – and interest in – the issue.  Not a week goes by without several significant events on the issue.

Just this week, I am involved in three public (and one closed) speaking events on the Marcellus Shale:

Tonight, I am sitting on a panel with Chair of the NYC Council Environmental Protection Committee, Jim Gennaro, DEC Executive Deputy Commissioner, Stuart Gruskin, Chesapeake Energy VP of Government Relations, David Spigelmyer, and Catskill Mountainkeeper Program Director, Wes Gillingham.  The panel discussion, being held at SUNY New Paltz, will be in a roundtable format to be followed by a public forum and a keynote address by US Congressman Maurice Hinchey (sponsor of the FRAC Act that would restore federal regulation over the controversial hydraulic fracturing technology).  The event is scheduled to run from 5:45 to 8 pm in Lecture Center Room 100.

Tomorrow night, I am presenting at the monthly Green Drinks event in Manhattan.  The event (which is a great networking opportunity) runs from 6 to 10 pm at the Hiro Ballroom, 88 Ninth Ave @ 16th St., with the speaking program on Marcellus gas drilling to begin at 7 pm.

And Wednesday evening, I am again a part of a panel discussing gas drilling sponsored by the New York City Bar Association Environmental Law Committee and the Environmental Law Institute.  My co-panelists will be Hilary Meltzer of the NYC’s Corporation Counsel’s Office, and Tom West, counsel for Chesapeake.  The panel is at the City Bar Association, 42 W. 44th St., and runs from 6 to 7:30 pm.

If you are in the neighborhood for any of these events, please stop by.

And in the meantime, please keep up the calls on Governor Paterson to require that DEC issue a new, properly-prepared, legally-sufficient draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement before allowing this massive new industrial activity to proceed in New York.  There is still a chance for us to serve as the model for how to regulate it right!