March 20, 2012
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of the State of New York
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo:
I write to request that you take immediate action to assess, avoid or mitigate any adverse environmental impacts associated with mortgage loans involving properties with gas leases in New York State. I believe that this action is required pursuant to the New York Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA): 6 NYCRR Part 617 State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) [Statutory authority: Environmental Conservation Law Sections 3-0301(1)(b), 3-0301(2)(m) and 8-0113].
A coalition letter with more than 22,000 signatories requests that you withdraw the Marcellus Shale Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Impact Statement (SGEIS) in part due to your Department of Environmental Conservation's total failure to address this critical issue. See point two at: http://www.toxicstargeting.com/MarcellusShale/cuomo/coalition_letter/2011
As you will see below from my 3/18/12 letter to President Obama, the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for managing various loan programs in areas where shale gas extraction is taking place or could take place in the future. Those programs recently made nearly $20 billion in loans and loan guarantees to approximately 140,000 families and 15,000 businesses. http://www.toxicstargeting.com/MarcellusShale/documents/letters/2012/03/...
USDA earlier determined that its loan programs warranted a "categorical exclusion" level of review pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) since the loans did not involve adverse environmental effects.
USDA is reportedly considering issuing an "Administrative Notice" that "extraordinary circumstances" are related to the environmental impacts of horizontal hydrofracturing regarding oil and gas production. As a result, the "categorical exclusion" level of review might no longer be acceptable.
A comprehensive environmental proceeding reportedly might be required to assess the full range of environmental impacts associated with horizontal hydrofracturing and mortgage lending in order to fulfill NEPA requirements. This reportedly would require either an "environmental assessment" or an "environmental impact statement" as part of USDA's loan review process.
This important policy matter just received extensive national coverage in The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/us/drilling-property-mortgages-may-get...
I believe that USDA NEPA action is clearly warranted because hundreds of fires, explosions, polluted water wells and massive drilling wastewater releases associated with natural gas activities have been documented by environmental and health authorities in New York.
I similarly believe New York State is obligated to undertake a review pursuant to SEQR. According to DEC:
"The formal threshold for requiring an EIS under NEPA is, '.....will cause an adverse environmental impact', while the threshold under SEQR is, '.....may cause an adverse environmental impact'. Furthermore, under SEQR, the requirement to require avoidance or mitigation of identified impacts via the Findings after a Final EIS is included within the statute." (See: http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/50607.html)
Given that obligation, I request that your administration's SEQR review include, but not be limited to the following New York State programs:
State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA),
The Housing Development Fund,
The New York State Legislative Member Item Program,
The Rural Area Revitalization Program,
The Rural Preservation Companies Program,
The New York State Home Program,
The Housing Trust Fund Corporation,
The Housing Finance Agency,
The Affordable Housing Corporation,
The Division of Housing and Community Renewal and
The Housing Trust Fund Corporation.
You stated on 2/8/12 that a decision would be made "in a couple of months" whether horizontal hydrofracturing would be permitted in New York's Marcellus Shale formation. You also expressed confidence that DEC would soon complete its review of Revised Draft SGEIS comments. The Syracuse Post-Standard reported: "Someone is actually reading all 61,000 comments," Cuomo said. "They're all being looked at, really."
Your statement demonstrates a disturbing level of misunderstanding about the SGEIS proceeding. First, DEC reportedly is in the process of reviewing more than 73,000 comments. Second, DEC has yet to respond in a meaningful way to unprecedented and extraordinarily complex concerns. Finally, you underscored that the SGEIS proceeding must restore confidence in government's ability to serve the public interest. Given the withering criticism that the Revised Draft SGEIS received, you would be undermining public confidence if you allow DEC to ignore the mortgage lending and other critical concerns documented in the coalition letter.
I urge you to read the Withdraw the Revised Draft SGEIS coalition letter. It would inform you of the monumental unfinished task that your administration faces. Until there is a consensus among local, state and federal authorities and potentially impacted parties that all 17 critical concerns documented in the coalition letter have been fully resolved, you must maintain New York's horizontal hydrofracturing shale gas drilling moratorium.
I trust that you will find my request self-explanatory, but please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions that I might be able to answer.
Very respectfully yours,
Walter L. T. Hang