ALBANY, NY (12/10/2010)(readMedia)-- Dozens of environmental, community and public health groups across the state today called on Governor David Paterson to sign a bill that would suspend the issuance of new permits to hydraulically fracture, or "frack," natural gas wells before the midnight deadline on Monday, December 13th. The groups hope that the Governor will sign the bill into law in response to overwhelming public demand to call a timeout on fracking in New York so that drilling does not accelerate before measures to protect health and the environment are put in place.
Since the legislation was delivered to the Governor's desk last week, tens of thousands of New Yorkers have called or written asking him to sign the bill without delay. Two celebrities, actors who have both played the role of the gigantic green mutant hero, the Incredible Hulk, Ed Norton and Mark Ruffalo, have sent the Governor personal video messages. Yet despite this outpouring of support for the timeout, New Yorkers must counter the steady drumbeat of misinformation and myths that has been advanced by the oil and gas industry about the legislation, including what drilling will be limited, where and how.
"The moratorium bill only limits the Department of Environmental Conservation's issuance of new permits in '... low permeability natural gas reservoirs, such as the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.' Use of conventional, low-volume, hydraulic fracturing, with or without horizontal drilling, is still available for already permitted wells, and for proposed new wells," said Dr. Anthony R. Ingraffea, Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University, and Fellow of the International Congress on Fracture (2009). "Industry and landowner claims that currently approved wells would be impacted or current jobs would be lost can only stem from a misinformed reading of the bill. The Governor should not be bullied by spurious threats of job losses and should join the bipartisan majority of both houses of the legislature in listening to the will of the people of New York State."
"If Governor Paterson gets past the industry's smoke and mirrors, he'll recognize that calling a timeout on fracking in New York is the surest way to protect our drinking water from the certain degrading fate it will suffer if fracking proceeds unabated," said Katherine Nadeau of Environmental Advocates of New York. "The gas industry has fought the environmental community's efforts to be honest about the potential negative impacts of fracking with myths easily debunked by experts."
Earlier this week, numerous groups sent a joint letter asking the Governor to sign the timeout, including: Advocates for Cherry Valley, Brewery Ommegang, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Chenango Community Action for Renewable Energy, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Common Cause NY, Community Environmental Defense Council, Inc., Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, Environmental Advocates of New York, Environment New York, Frack Action, Gas Drilling Awareness for Cortland County, Izaak Walton League of America – NY Division, Lake George Waterkeeper, Landowners Against Natural Gas Drilling, League of Women Voters New York, National Wildlife Federation, New Yorkers for Sustainable Energy Solutions Statewide, NYH2O, NYNJ Baykeeper, Otsego 2000, Riverkeeper, Schoharie Valley Watch, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Sullivan Area Citizens for Responsible Energy Development and United for Action.
"Governor Paterson has a unique opportunity to make New York the first state in the nation to stand up to big oil and gas companies and insist on the protection of its citizens and natural resources before new drilling is allowed," said Kate Sinding, Deputy Director of the New York Urban Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The Governor should quickly sign this measure into law, demonstrating that Americans can demand that gas companies demonstrate the safety of their practices before risky new drilling occurs."
Late Monday, November 29th, the State Assembly voted to protect New York's drinking water by passing legislation that will enact a timeout on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. By passing the bill, the Assembly and Senate clearly recognized the potential dangers of rushing ahead with the environmentally dangerous practice of hydraulic fracturing, often called "fracking." In states such as Pennsylvania, Colorado and Wyoming gas development using fracking has contaminated drinking and groundwater sources. The State Senate passed the timeout bill in August.
"The public has spoken in a unified, clear voice in supporting a timeout for hydro-fracking to allow a thorough evaluation of adverse impacts to our air, water and public health. The temporary suspension on hydro-fracking is a rational, reasonable step in this complicated process. Now, as one of the Governor's last acts in office, he will decide if public need is of greater importance than corporate greed. We are extremely hopeful the public voice is still a powerful force in Albany," said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director at Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
"Just a few days ago, Governor Paterson wrote to the Delaware River Basin Commission about the need for good science and consistent regulation in the face of gas drilling," said Nadia Steinzor of EARTHWORKS Oil & Gas Accountability Project. "Now he has a chance to give New York the opportunity to ensure that we fully understand the risks and can protect communities."
"Two years ago industry told us 'It's just sand and water.' Today everyone knows it is much more toxic than that, so why would we believe their current exaggeration?" said Wes Gillingham, Program Director, Catskill Mountainkeeper. "It is time to stop and get the facts about how fracking will impact our state before it happens, not after it's too late."
In addition to providing the incoming governor and his administration an opportunity to take a fresh look at the issues surrounding gas development, the suspension bill would also provide the State Legislature with the chance to make necessary changes to New York's oil and gas permitting program.
"Governor Paterson has the opportunity to shape the way for the rest of the country and put into law a timeout to help ensure that before any drill hits the ground, fracking is done the right way in New York State," said Paul Gallay, Executive Director and Hudson Riverkeeper. "We've unfortunately had to learn from the devastating effects that hasty fracking operations have had in other states. There is no second chance to fix our water supply once it's been tainted from gas drilling gone wrong."
Myths & Facts about the Fracking Suspension Bill:
• The hydraulic fracturing suspension only applies to new permits for oil and gas wells.
• The fracking suspension does not apply to water wells.
• The inclusion of vertical wells was intentional and critical. Gas companies threatened to drill vertically into the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations during the moratorium and then convert those wells into horizontal wells as soon as the moratorium sunset. Companies should not be allowed to side step the ongoing environmental review process ordered by Governor Paterson through a loophole for vertical wells.
• There are numerous environmental and health concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing. These concerns are equally applicable to vertical as well as horizontal wells, e.g. hazardous chemical use, toxic wastewater generation, stray gas migration, truck traffic, air emissions, etc. These are all impacts being examined in the on-going environmental review process and new vertical wells should not be drilled until the impacts are fully assessed and any mitigating measures are identified.
• The gas industry is vastly overstating the job loss associated with a fracking timeout. The legislation only applies to hydraulic fracturing "in low permeability natural gas reservoirs, such as the Marcellus and Utica formations." The legislation only applies to the same formations that are currently under review in the state's environmental review process. It does not apply to ongoing vertical drilling in other types of formations, and jobs associated with current drilling will not be affected.
• Industry claims that jobs, royalty payments, and state and local tax revenues would be lost is untrue. Current operations would continue.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Erica Ringewald, Environmental Advocates of New York, 518-210-9903 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Adrienne Esposito, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, 516-390-7150 or email@example.com