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New York State’s Negligent Stewardship Calls for Sustainability Study

New York State has been negligent in its performance of stewardship duties with regard to the consideration of hydrofracking. This failure in its service to the people of New York cannot be attributed solely to the wording of its environment conservation law.

It is true that this law does not prioritize sustainable development. Although the law calls on the State to meet its “responsibility as trustee of the environment for the present and future generations” and to “enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state”, this protective language is always co-mingled with language calling for the development of its natural resources. The law declares that it is State policy

“to conserve, improve and protect its natural resources” and “to enhance..the overall economic and social well being, “
and the State is also to be “promoting patterns of development and technology which minimize adverse impact on the environment” (italics mine) (1)

While this language could be said, on balance, to privilege economic development by not prioritizing the protection of the health of the people and the environment, the law certainly calls for serious consideration and stewardship of the people’s health and environment.

The ways in which New York State has violated by the spirit of protective stewardship as it has reviewed the hydrofracking process are disturbingly numerous. A few of them follow. Spacing laws needed by the hydrofracking industry were passed by the legislature before hydrofracking was understood throughout the legislature and by the people of New York (2).

The New York State Department of Environmental conservation (NYS DEC) announced that it would take only written comments on its first environmental impact statement (Draft Supplementary Generic Environmental Impact Statement[ DGEIS]) for hydrofracking (3) and only the ensuing uproar induced the state to hold open hearings (4) .

The DGEIS was, itself, negligent in its many flaws, such as the failure to consider the cumulative impact of hydrofracking drilling sites. The State has also failed to provide resources to agencies, such as those working with health at the county level, for the additional personnel and funding to work with problems of hydrofracking (5, 6). The current amended supplementary environment impact statement (SGEIS), issued in September of 2011, called for only four public hearings on this very critical matter(7).


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