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July 2011 Archives

July 1, 2011

Bill Passed that Creates State Level Green Jobs Subcommittee

On June 20, 2011, the State Legislature passed a bill that, if signed into law, creates a "green jobs" subcommittee within the State Workforce Investment Board (WIB) to carry out statewide green jobs policy. Among other things, the WIB is charged with overseeing programs and policies concerning state workforce development.

The bill adds a new section to the Labor Law which establishes the green jobs subcommittee. The law specifies that the subcommittee is responsible for collecting and analyzing statewide and regional labor market and industry data for the purpose of identifying green job creation opportunities in the state as well as workforce potential to match these opportunities. The goal of this data analysis is to match green job training and education policies with actual job opportunities. Based on the results of this analysis, the subcommittee will make targeted recommendations to develop education and job training programs, with a particular focus on at-risk youth, low-income communities, communities of color, and unemployed workers in transition industries.

The subcommittee is also required to assist local governments in creating local "green jobs corps" to spur green job training and education in municipalities across the state. This assistance can take the form of either creating new local green jobs corps or strengthening existing local programs. In carrying out its tasks, the subcommittee is required to work with a number of public and private stakeholders that are specifically listed in the legislation, including, among others, representatives from the environmental justice community, labor organizations, job training organizations, primary and secondary educational institutions, trade schools, small businesses, and organizations that deal with "at risk" youth and individuals with special needs.

The subcommittee is also required to explore funding mechanisms for green jobs training and education through a mix of public and private resources, including federal stimulus dollars, state, local and/or private funding sources. The law requires that the subcommittee prepare an annual report on green labor market trends in New York State, which is required to be submitted to the Governor and the Legislature.

I, along with five other individuals, created an organization (Lawyers for Green Jobs) which drafted this law, lobbied for it, and worked closely with its sponsors in the Assembly and Senate to ensure its passage. It passed the Assembly by a vote of 141-1 and the Senate by a vote of 60-3. We are grateful for the leadership of Assemblyman George Latimer and Senator Tim Kennedy who both ensured that it passed both houses by large margins.

July 18, 2011

DEC Issues Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement Concerning High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing in the Marcellus Shale Formation in New York

On July 1, 2011, DEC issued a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) that opens approximately 85 percent of the Marcellus Shale formation in the state to natural gas extraction by the high-volume hydraulic fracturing method. The SGEIS replaces a document issued in September 2009 that set up buffer zones and permit procedures to protect the upstate watershed for the New York City drinking water supply. The Marcellus Shale formation extends from Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland northeast into Pennsylvania and southern New York and below Lake Erie. According to DEC, a 60-day public comment period on the plan commenced in August 2011, and no permits will be issued until the public comments are reviewed and considered and the final SGEIS is released.

The document prohibits high-volume fracturing in the watersheds for the New York City and Syracuse drinking water supplies, in addition to retaining the buffer zones. The document also bans surface drilling within all primary aquifers and within 500 feet of their boundaries, as well as on state-owned land, including parks, state forests, and wildlife management areas. Drilling on other private land, however, would be allowed.

DEC recommended a number of regulatory steps, including a ban on permits for sites within 500 feet of a private water well or domestic use spring or within a 100-year floodplain, and no permits will be issued for a proposed site within 2,000 feet of a public drinking water supply well or reservoir, at least until three years of experience elsewhere have been evaluated. The state would also require additional well casing to prevent gas migration, calling in most cases for an additional third cemented casing around each well. Depths of both surface and intermediate casings would be determined by site-specific conditions.

For spill control, all new guidelines would require that flowback water on a site use watertight tanks within secondary containment, with no open containment allowed. Secondary containment would also be required for all fracturing additive containers, additive staging areas, and flowback tanks to ensure that any spills of wastewater or chemicals at the well pad do not migrate into water supplies. A new permit process would also require strict stormwater control measures. Handling of flowback water would be regulated through required disposal plans, a waste tracking process, and approvals for use of waste treatment facilities.

In recommendations affecting local governments and communities, DEC would notify local governments of each well permit application for high-volume fracturing and require applicants to 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.

The SGEIS also identified 322 chemicals proposed for use in New York and includes health hazard information for each from the state Health Department. It called for applicants to disclose to DEC all products utilized in the high-volume fracturing process and to agree to publicly disclose the names of the additives, subject to appropriate protections for proprietary information. Also, operators would be required to evaluate using alternative additives that pose less risk.

The SGEIS requires enhanced air pollution controls on engines used at well pads, and calls for DEC to monitor local and regional air quality at well pads and surrounding areas. In a step to reduce greenhouse gas impacts, the SGEIS requires the use of existing pipelines when available, rather than flaring gas. To conserve wildlife habitats, the recommendations would restrict disturbing the surface of the land in private forests of 150 acres or more, by requiring applicants to comply with best management practices. On private grasslands, the requirement would apply to parcels of 30 acres or more.

The plan also calls for an advisory panel to consider issues including funding to ensure proper oversight, monitoring, and enforcement of mitigation measures, including both state and county agencies responsible for drilling activities and reviewing water sampling data; measures to minimize socioeconomic and other impacts on local governments and communities; a fee structure for drilling development; and a funding mechanism for infrastructure improvements.

About July 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Envirosphere in July 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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