Keith Schue 9 Maple Avenue Cherry Valley, New York 13320 (607) 264-5024 Via electronic mail

and U.S. mail February 24, 2013 Hon. Jaclyn A. Brilling, Secretary New York State Public Service Commission Three Empire State Plaza Albany, New York 12223-1350

RE:

Response to Technical Conference Questions in Case 12-G-0297; Proceeding on Motion of the Commission to Examine Policies Regarding the Expansion of Natural Gas Service

Dear Secretary Brilling, Please accept the following response to questions identified in Case 12-G-0297 titled "Proceeding on Motion of the Commission to Examine Policies Regarding the Expansion of Natural Gas Service." My background includes having worked five years for The Nature Conservancy1, where a focus of my attention was the protection of water resources and the large landscape-level impacts of habitat fragmentation caused by development and infrastructure. In addition, I have served on several federal, state, and local government advisory boards involved in the review and recommendation of policies, regulations, and legislation affecting natural resources, development, and infrastructure. I also have graduate and post graduate degrees in engineering and worked in the private sector for twelve years in technology for land-based utilities distributed over large networks. At the outset, I wish to express concern regarding the nature of this inquiry which seeks to promote the use of natural gas within New York State on the basis of demonstrably false claims. The case document asserts that coal is a dirty fossil fuel; however so is natural gas. Both are significant contributors to global warming and should be discouraged as part of any credible sustainable energy portfolio. Moreover, today's fashionable method of gas extraction by high-volume hydraulic fracturing poses a significant threat to human health and natural resources, including air, water, and land. This is of particular concern within New York State, which is not in danger of significant coal extraction, but could be severely impacted by the widespread proliferation of fracking where Marcellus or Utica shale formations are present. Likewise, at best the economic benefits of natural gas are short-lived in terms of both job creation and fuel costs. Gas prices can be expected to rise significantly if federal policy encourages the export of liquefied natural gas. If the PSC is genuinely interested in the long-term welfare of New York and her residents, it will focus attention on encouraging investments in renewable energy by creating programs that assist in transitioning homes and businesses away from fossil fuels, reducing barriers to users and utilities that wish to pursue renewable energy, and making improvements to the electrical grid that facilitate

1

Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, 2005-2010. Comments expressed herein are my own.

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distributed generation such as wind and solar. Efforts such as these have been proposed through the Governor's Cleaner-Greener Communities Program, so the PSC should consider them too. I am also concerned that this inquiry has occurred without appropriate attention to changing circumstances affecting the PSC's regulatory role within the gas industry itself. The PSC case document and questions are built upon the premise of providing greater access to utilities and users of natural gas, ostensibly seeking input on how to reduce barriers to that access. However, with the expansion of shale gas extraction, the PSC has become increasingly involved in projects that relate to production. Furthermore, it goes without saying that if high-volume hydraulic fracturing is permitted in New York State, permit requests for infrastructure to support this activity will skyrocket. It is indisputable that if fracking commences on a large scale, the role of the PSC will dramatically shift from its current function of primarily permitting the delivery of gas that originates outside of New York, to supporting new distributed networks for the collection, processing, and transport of gas produced within the state. The physical consequence of this over large landscapes is that that instead of dealing with predominantly linear corridors that serve a finite number of clustered population centers as it has in the past, the PSC will instead be increasingly asked to grant permits for sprawling infrastructure necessary to accommodate matrices of gas wells and production facilities blanketing whole regions. The effect of this repeating "wallpaper pattern" of gathering lines, trunks, and compressor stations will be profound. From the standpoint of ecological and community impacts, it will entail the construction of pipelines and related infrastructure in and through farmland, virgin landscapes, and rugged terrain on an unprecedented scale with adverse cumulative effects far beyond anything the PSC has had to address in the past. If highvolume fracking is authorized within New York State, it will be incumbent upon the PSC to consider additional oversight coupled with regional planning to avoid catastrophic ecological impacts and unbridled gas development from overwhelming communities. Contemplating program or policy changes that reduce oversight or "streamline" the permitting and review process is unwise, especially with the specter of these events on the horizon. The public should be very concerned that measured adopted to promote the availability of natural gas for utilities and end users may translate to weakened permitting and review on the supply end where even greater oversight could be needed if widespread extraction occurs. Although this danger is woven into many of the questions posed in the Case 12-G-0297 document, it directly relates to questions #19 and #20 grouped under the title "Environmental Impact". Question #19 reads as follows: 19. Are there changes that could be made to the environmental impact review process involved in granting or expanding gas franchise areas that could improve or streamline the process? Any reduction or elimination of steps within a process could be characterized as "streamlining," however this does not necessarily constitute an "improvement", and should not be suggested as a goal unto itself. Environmental review is a necessary component of the regulatory process to ensure that impacts upon natural resources, ecosystems, and communities are not adversely affected. I recently attended a presentation given by a representative of the Department of Public Services who explained the process by which pipeline projects under the jurisdiction of the PSC are reviewed, including the content requirement for applications. According to the Department, for smaller projects involving shorter pipelines with less capacity, the application process requires the submission of very little information—essentially just the project size and location. If high-volume hydraulic fracturing is permitted in New York State, agency staff will be asked to routinely review projects associated with gas well production and collection (gathering lines, intermediate feeders, etc) –and as previously discussed, the cumulative impact of this pipeline infrastructure serving many well pads in a grid pattern over large

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regions would be extensive. For this reason, and considering the limited resources staff would likely have to research and review projects, is necessary that more complete information be provided by the applicant up-front, such as the location of wetland and riparian systems, natural communities, topography, nearby dwelling or structures, and land use. In light of the above, "improving" the current process to protect the environment will require enhanced review. The PSC should not shy away from pursuing greater regulatory oversight to achieve this. Question #20 reads as follows: 20. Please identify, if any, areas of the State where provision of natural gas delivery service is unrealistic because of environmental constraints, construction permitting requirements or other factors and explain why service to such areas is believed to be unrealistic. Are there any areas of the State that require special consideration regarding expansion of the natural gas system? The notion that expansion of natural gas infrastructure should be sought in all areas, including those which are "unrealistic" due to regulatory requirements, is flawed. It should go without saying that if compliance with requirements necessary to protect the environment and ensure safe construction practices causes the expansion of natural gas in certain areas to be unviable, then natural gas expansion in those areas should not be pursued. The history of gas development and delivery is replete with examples of environmental damage, explosions, and other accidents that have resulted in catastrophic loss of life and property because rules were not followed. The idea that certain areas and the people living within them should receive "special consideration" for reduced protection is highly objectionable. *** In summary, while I appreciate that natural gas continues to be a source of energy within New York State, encouraging its expansion is not an activity that the PSC should pursue. Instead the PSC should focus

its attention on policies that facilitate a transition away from fossil fuels and to renewable energy.
To the extent that the expansion of natural gas infrastructure occurs, the PSC should strengthen—not weaken— its regulatory program to minimize environment impacts, including the cumulative impact of infrastructure over large landscapes.

Thank you for considering these comments.

Sincerely,

Keith Schue

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