Groups Call on DEC to Protect New York's Environment & Drinking Water from Natural Gas Drilling Dangers

Public Comment Period on State's Draft Drilling Guide Ends December 31st

ALBANY, NY (12/29/2009)(readMedia)-- Just one day prior to the close of the public comment period on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) draft guide for natural gas drilling, environmental and community groups are calling on the agency and Governor David Paterson to drop the flawed plan, go back to the drawing board, and issue rules and regulations that will protect the environment and drinking water. Thousands of New Yorkers will have weighed in against the DEC's draft guide prior to the December 31st deadline.

"Before even one well gets drilled in New York State, we must be certain that our waterways and communities are protected from the dangers of natural gas drilling," said Katherine Nadeau, Water & Natural Resources Program Associate, Environmental Advocates of New York. "New York needs to do this right-with protective rules and regulations and staff to enforce them. The gas has been trapped in these rocks for millions of years. Taking the time to re-draft a fatally flawed plan won't change that."

Earlier this year, the DEC released a draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement to guide drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, as well as any undefined shale formations, for public comment. The comment period closes on December 31, 2009. Environmental and community groups believe the draft drilling guide is fatally flawed and will do little to protect New York's air, land, water and communities.

"Our detailed review and analysis revealed that in DEC's rush to cobble together this draft SGEIS it gave short shrift to many critical issues, and side-stepped its duty under SEQRA to avoid environmental impacts before they occur," said James L. Simpson, Riverkeeper Staff Attorney.

"New York residents want to see wildlife and people protected with strong environmental standards," stated Emily Maxwell, Regional Representative, National Wildlife Federation. "The drilling for natural gas in New York's precious watersheds and natural areas should protect these valuable resources for generations to come. The State of New York must uphold this high standard in designing new standards that will regulate these natural gas drilling activities."

Tens of thousands of New Yorkers have called on the DEC and state leaders to drop the draft plan and issue strong rules and regulations that will:

• limit the use of toxic chemicals in the drilling process;

• protect streams, rivers, and groundwater from the large water withdrawals associated with drilling techniques such as hydraulic fracturing, often called "fracking";

• conduct a cumulative impact assessment to protect our communities from the large-scale impacts of fracking; and

• delineate "no-drill zones" or processes for declaring sensitive areas unsuitable for drilling.

"The draft environmental study is so seriously flawed that it cannot serve as the basis for permitting drilling in New York," said Kate Sinding, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Simply put, it provides no comfort that drilling can be done while still protecting New Yorkers' health or our precious natural resources. The state still has the opportunity to be a national model for responsible gas drilling, but only if it starts over-this time with a properly rigorous look at how to do it safely."

The natural gas industry is eager to explore the estimated trillions of cubic feet of natural gas trapped within the rock of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, as well as any undefined shale formations. Drilling companies propose to use a dangerous technique called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," to extract the natural gas. Each time a new well is drilled or fracked, two to eight million gallons of water laced with toxic chemicals are injected at high pressure into the wells to fracture the rock and release the gas.

Fracking, and the water contamination that sometimes results, have devastated the environment in parts of Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming. In addition, withdrawing such high volumes of water from local waterways and aquifers could devastate New York's valuable drinking water supplies and sensitive habitats.

The groups include Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Environmental Advocates of New York, Friends of The Upper Delaware River, Ithaca Freeskool, Ithaca Vegans, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, New Yorkers for Sustainable Energy Solutions Statewide, Otsego 2000, Riverkeeper, Inc., Shaleshock Citizens Action Alliance Media Working Group, and Sustainable Otsego.