Subject: Why Fracking Must Be Banned in New York State
THE EMERGING FACTS ABOUT THE NEW NATURAL GAS PERMITTING CONDITIONS
WHY NYS WON'T BE PROTECTED AND WHY A BAN IS NOW THE ONLY SOLUTION
On July 8, 2011, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released its draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Study (dSGEIS) - the proposed permitting conditions for the hydraulic fracturing of horizontal wells in New York State.
While the dSGEIS may appear at first glance to be a significant improvement over the previous document (released by the DEC in 2009), Mountainkeeper's investigation into the text's fine print has identified massive deficiencies. These include failing to present a mitigation plan for the inevitable public health impacts associated with fracking, and a blatant disregard to adequate drinking water protections.
Additionally, this document presents the industry with a clear road map for fracking in the Catskill Park, the Delaware River Watershed, and throughout the Southern Tier of New York.
The reality is that NO amount of regulation, NO amount of permitting guidelines, and NO amount of laws and ordinances can protect our water and communities from a reckless industry as long as our regulatory industries continue to lack the staff and resources they need to properly enforce such mandates.
Catskill Mountainkeeper believes that the only option to ensure protections for all New Yorkers is to ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State. We recognize that the process to approve fracking may go forward, and if it does, we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that New York State receives the most stringent environmental regulations possible.
Some of the issues:
The Handling of Toxic Wastewater Still a Major Problem
The plan by the DEC to track the solid and liquid wastes that are generated in connection with fracking sounds positive until you read that they are leaving the tracking of these wastes up to gas industry operators. We've all seen what happens when the industry is asked to police itself. Even more upsetting is that the DEC is still not classifying some of the waste that normally qualifies as hazardous, as hazardous, meaning that fracking waste could be sent to treatment facilities that are unable to properly treat it.
Protection of Primary Aquifers is only for a Limited Time
The DEC is proposing to prohibit fracking in primary aquifers that serve as public drinking water supplies but this "prohibition" is only limited to a couple of years after which the state could "reconsider" the bans. In addition, the DEC does not lay out the conditions under which "reconsideration" would be reviewed.
Bans on Drilling in State-Owned Land Inadequate
The ban on drilling in state-owned lands looks good until you read that while the state will prohibit well pads above ground they will allow drilling under these same lands.
Plan to go ahead before a Rulemaking Process is in Effect
The document lays out a rulemaking process that would formalize its proposed safeguards in a single set of uniform, legally enforceable regulations, which is critical, but in a totally backward move they have said that they would begin processing permit applications before the rulemaking is finished.
Cumulative Impact Requirements Incomplete
References to how an area would be affected by the cumulative impact of many, many wells is only addressed for some aspects of that cumulative impact but the DEC has failed to lay out a comprehensive, focused plan to review and analyze the consequences of a full build out.
Regional Areas of Geological Risk Not Protected
The DEC has not addressed fracking in areas of special geological risk, such as those with fault lines that are potential pathways for the upward gradient of contaminants into aquifers because they claim that contaminants can't rise into aquifers. However, independent scientific studies have proven that upward migration of contaminants is not only possible, but also likely. The DEC based their assertion on industry studies that looked at just 5 days in the fracking process.
Open Waste Pits Not Outlawed
The DEC has sidestepped banning deplorable open waste pits because they say that the gas industry has asserted that they are unlikely to use open pits for the storage of wastewater. Instead of prohibiting open pits out right, which should be done, they have proposed a system where a lone DEC employee could grant approval without doing an individual environmental impact study.
So what's next?
We are waiting for the dates to be released for the public hearings that the DEC will schedule to collect comments on their plan.
GETTING A LARGE TURNOUT TO THESE HEARINGS IS CRITICAL.
Catskill Mountainkeeper will alert you as soon as we know the dates and locations of these meetings and we urge you to plan to be there.
Click here to read our New York Times letter to the editor explaining our position on fracking published on July 13, 2011.
Catskill Mountainkeeper is working hard to protect New Yorkers from fracking.
Please support us with your donations.
or mail a check to: Catskill Mountainkeeper, PO Box 381, Youngsville, NY 12791
About Catskill Mountainkeeper
Catskill Mountainkeeper is an independent, not for profit, 501c3 community based environmental advocacy organization, dedicated to creating a flourishing sustainable economy in the Catskills and preserving and protecting the area's long term health. We address issues of water integrity for the Delaware and Susquehanna River Systems, the defense of the vast woodlands that encompass the Catskill Forest Preserve and the New York City Watershed as well as farmland protection. We promote "smart" development that balances the economic needs and concerns of the Catskill regions' citizens and the protection of our abundant but exceedingly vulnerable natural resources.