Fracking Central Park? ( 12/16/12)

A FOIL request of the DEC has uncovered two shale gas well permit applications in New York City’s Central Park. The address on the first application is given as “Central Park West at W. 62nd Street.”  The second is an address on Central Park East. The mineral rights owner is listed as “New York City” and the mineral leases are to “N. Bedford Forrest Operating Company, of Guthrie, Oklahoma,”  ably represented by The Law Firm of Tom West. The applications are shown as exploratory or “wildcat” tests of the Olmsted Shale, a formation of which little is known in Midtown. Target depth is 10,000 feet, which would require one of the biggest land rigs available to be brought up from the Eagle Ford field in South Texas, possibly by barge up the Hudson River.

Based on the DEC’s proposed fracking regulationsthe proposed HVHF applications would be acceptable to the Department of Mineral Resources director Brad “Flat Earth” Fieldsince the drill pad sites are more than 500 feet from the nearest“inhabited dwellings”  on either Central Park West or East, and are more than 500 feet from the nearest “places of assembly,” Lincoln Center or the Oak Bar at the Plaza.We submitted questions to DEC spokesperson Emo deSallis, who was surprisingly responsive, answering almost immediately and with uncharacteristic candor:

NFW: Do the applications meet all of the requirements of the new fracking regs. ?

deSallis:  ”Yes, the pad sites are 500 feet from inhabited dwelling and a place of assembly. They are not in the watershed of the New York City reservoir. Both applications qualify per the setbacks in Section 560.4.”

NFW: Will there be an SEQRA on the applications ?

deSallis: “This falls within the guidelines of the SGEIS. No SEQRA required.”

NFW:  The Central Park East permit appears to be across the street from The Pierre Hotel.

deSallis: “Hotels are not “dwellings” so they are not protected uses in the regulations.

NFW: What about the Jackie O Reservoir ?

deSallis: “No longer used for drinking water. The applicant intends to drain it for frackwater. ”

NFW: The CPW drill pad location appears to be next to or on top of the softball fields.

deSallis: “Playing fields are not a protected use by the DEC.

NFW: What about The Pond at W. 59th ?

deSallis: “Ponds are not protected under the regs. That is the site of the second permit application. They are going to drain it. ”

NFW:  Isn’t fracking banned in New York City ?

deSallis: “The Mayor signed the lease. It’s part of Hizzoner’s gaseous promotion of safe fracking.

NFW: What’s good for the Catskills is good for Manhattan

deSallis: “Something like that.”

NFW:  What about the fracking flowback ?

deSallis: “They propose to take the frack waste on barges  to a municipal treatment plant.”

NFW: Are these horizontal wells ?

deSallis: “If they test well, they intend to run the laterals north.”

NFW: How far ?

deSallis: “Harlem. The Apollo at 125th Street.”  

NFW: Under the statue of Alice ?

deSallis: “Pretty much parallel to the A Train.” A phone rang. “Have to go, it’s Fred Dicker at the Post.”

NFW: Thanks for your time.

deSalls: “No problem.”

Mark Ohe’s rendering of what the Central Park West well site would look like: 

“CPW # 1 Olmsted Shale Test” N.Bedford Forrest, LLC, Guthrie, Oklahoma. 

Mark’s rendering of  the Central Park East “PierreView #1, Olmsted Shale Test” 

About a year ago I pointed out that, based on the September 2011 draft regulations, you could get a permit to drill a shale gas well in Central Park. Independently, Mark Ohe speculated on what that might look like, and I wrote the copy  as an example of what the regs. would allow. Note that since the setback of the well pad is 500 feet, the imaginary wells shown could in fact be permitted, since the well pad could be set back sufficiently far from the “dwellings” on the street, or the “places of assembly”. As noted, there are no setbacks from ponds, ball fields, etc. – so none of the other features in the Park would preclude permitting a shale gas well. Which is the point of the piece: absent better protections or town ban, this is what other communities face under the proposed regulations. This is what Central Park would look like in Upstate. Cute huh ? 

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