Friday, October 23, 2009


A beautiful word, no? From the Latin and from this morning at City Hall, where Councilmember James F. Gennaro was holding a City Council hearing on the modest proposal known as natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, in New York State. Mr Gennaro chairs the Council's environmental protection committee.

"Is there some kind of ongoing colloquy between DEC and DEP?"

He may have said "DEP and DEC." Don't know. It's possible my undermind would have preferred to be thinking about less vile subjects, such as the arrival of the ballet company I've been meaning to see for the past three years, or sailing, or beet ravioli.

Back to subjects less savory.

Is it fair to say that people who have little idea how to begin or sustain a conversation or a dialogue (col=together) put the rest of us in a lousy position? A Mr Appleton (hope it's spelled correctly), who gave some rather compelling testimony by the time I left, at 2:30 p.m., said that the DEC's draft SGEIS report had the fingerprints of the state budget office all over it. He also said that the oil, coal and gas industries were in the middle of a grand food fight. Would that were all it was; we could clean up and get on with the day.

For those of us who are not lacking in imagination or in table manners, we are wondering what the price of quotidian existence will be in this . . . uh . . . gassy (for about ten years, although the consequences of clearcutting forests will, of course, extend beyond that time period) world of the future. What will I be risking by hand-washing my socks? What potential explosion will await me when I run a bath? Will the simple act of washing lettuce become an exercise in slow death by endocrine system poisoning?

At the outset of the hearing, there were approximately 150 people; by 2:30 there were approimately 35. At 1:24 p.m., Councilmember Gennaro asked if a representative from DEC was in the room? No. The DEC's representative had left. Really? Really. Mr. Gennaro subsequently read aloud the telephone numbers for DEC offices upstate and locally, urging attendees to give a jingle and ask that a representative from the department whose commissioner supposedly cares for the future of our water supply actually be present for all testimony presented at the hearing. Whether such a respresentative would actually listen is, of course, unknown.

At the very least, it's dramatically honest--it "lands," as some say--for the DEC to represent its deafness/absenteeism/absentia/indifference/disregard/ignorance/blindness/muteness/invisibility on this issue by amplifying the presence of absence. It makes complete dramatic sense for the DEC to have its own representative leave the hearing midway through. In real life--not in the play--it comes off less earnest than comic.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer testified that this is "the most important environmental issue this city has faced in the last decade." I think he's off the mark by several decades. The implications of this grand jobs-creation plan to poison-the-well-child/adult-and-then-give-him-an-as-yet-uncreated-and-untested-antidote make this a city issue to the power of 10.

Mistakes are being made. (Gentlemen, start your lawsuits!)

From a Latin textbook, I read about Echo and Narcissus, neither of whom have met members of the DEP or DEC and both of whom are, one would like to imagine, having a better time with their water than NYC and the rest of the state is having with ours: Ōlim nympham vocāvit et eī dīxit, Posteā verba reddere poteris, sed tū ipsa colloquium incipere nōn jam poteris.

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