NY Water Rangers Call Out Gov Cuomo & DEC for Fast-Tracking Fracking

Groups Identify 'Top 10' Fracking Defects in State's Draft Review & Regulations

ALBANY, NY (10/06/2011)(readMedia)-- As the New York State Assembly held a hearing on the health, economic and environmental threats of industrial gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale by means of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking, the New York Water Rangers today released a updated Top 10 list of critical flaws in the Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS) proposed regulations for fracking. The groups criticized Governor Andrew Cuomo and the DEC for not protecting the health and welfare of New Yorkers by failing to ban the use of toxic fracking chemicals, failing to address lack of treatment facilities for hazardous fracking waste, and failing to protect the state's aging water infrastructure.

"Governor Cuomo has gone from sacrosanct to sacrilege in his refusal to protect the water supplies of New York State. His plans call for untenable risks undertaken for insufficient reward. This must be reconsidered," said Nicole Dillingham, President Otsego 2000, Inc.

"There's nothing careful or reasonable about Governor Cuomo's approach to fracking," said Katherine Nadeau, Water & Natural Resources Program Director, Environmental Advocates of New York. "Fracking comes at a cost, but rather than give New Yorkers science and information about how dirty gas drilling will impact our communities if and when Governor Cuomo allows it, he and the Department of Environmental Conservation are fast-tracking the state's fracking plans."

The groups, all partners in the New York Water Rangers, and many of whom testified at the Assembly hearing, also noted improvements in the dSGEIS over the DEC's 2009 draft. However, the organizations' testimony centered on critical defects in the state's proposals to guide fracking.

"People who will bear the brunt of dirty drilling should not be rushed through the review and comment process," said Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm. "The Governor should welcome thorough public input, which will help the dSGEIS to withstand legal scrutiny."

"Many other states have taken a 'drill now, drill fast' stance, rushing forward without adequate information or regulation-and people and the environment are paying the price," said Nadia Steinzor of Earthworks' Oil and Gas Accountability Project. "All eyes have been on New York, but Governor Cuomo is squandering the opportunity to be a true leader and put health, air and water quality, and safety first."

"Mr Cuomo needs to realize New Yorkers do not like their children being guinea pigs in grand experiment for corporate greed. It's time he looked at the science on fracking," said Wes Gillingham, Program Director for Catskill Mountainkeeper.

"The regulations are out, but we have yet to see any estimate from the Governor or DEC of what the true costs of fracking will be for state taxpayers and local communities," said Kate Hudson Riverkeeper Watershed Program Director. "New Yorkers are entitled to the full story, during the comment period, on what the total price will be in tax dollars needed to repair local roads destroyed by fracking and cover the costs incurred by local and state government agencies to permit and monitor this industrial activity. Having complete information is especially critical because this may be the public's last chance to tell DEC how and if fracking should proceed. The Governor and DEC should tell the public the costs now, before asking them to foot the bill."

"New York's second draft of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement shows the DEC has done little in the past two years to demonstrate that fracking can be conducted safely," said Roger Downs, Conservation Director of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. "Instead, New York State is offering a series of mitigations meant to increase protections for certain areas while permitting drilling in others-with no underlying sense fracking will not present an unacceptable risk to our water, air or public health."

New York State's Top 10 Fracking Defects

1. New York State failed to analyze fracking's true costs. New Yorkers are concerned about the potential costs of fracking, including costs to already overburdened local governments, but Governor Cuomo and the DEC have failed to provide an analysis of the true costs of fracking for communities or the state. The socioeconomic impact analysis provided to the DEC omits critical information about fracking's fiscal impact on communities in terms of infrastructure, schools, and other costs.

2. New York State failed to analyze health impacts. Despite direction from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, calls from health professionals and the insistence of New Yorkers, the DEC has failed to include an analysis of public health impacts or to meaningfully incorporate the Department of Health into the fracking review. This is despite the fact that fracking-related air pollution and potential water contamination have serious effects on people-especially the elderly and children, and communities downwind and downstream of drilling operations. There is growing evidence of negative health impacts related to gas extraction in other states. Just yesterday, a coalition of more than 250 doctors and health care professionals petitioned Governor Cuomo to request that an independent school of public health conduct a Health Impact Analysis for fracking.

3. New York State failed to ban any chemicals. New Yorkers have made no bones about it-they want their water and communities protected from fracking fluids. Yet state leaders do not propose to ban any of the toxic chemicals used in fracking fluid, even those known to be serious human and animal carcinogens. Nor has there been any study of the cumulative effect of exposure to the hundreds of dangerous chemicals used in the fracking process that could be discharged as solid waste and wastewater, if fracking is permitted. While the proposed public disclosure component has been strengthened, telling New Yorkers what toxic chemicals will be used is not the same as protecting them from negative health impacts.

4. New York State failed to look at fracking comprehensively. Governor Cuomo failed to approach gas development in a comprehensive manner. As the industry would be overseen by several state agencies, including the Public Service Commission, Department of Agriculture and Markets, Department of Health and others, there is no single agency with a clear mandate to protect the public. Governor Cuomo is the only person who has the power to coordinate multiple agencies' efforts and protect New Yorkers.

5. New York State failed to undertake a cumulative impact analysis. The state has spent enormous resources to develop the economy of Upstate New York by attracting new high tech industries, by developing tourism, protecting agricultural lands, endangered species and historic sites, and encouraging land use compatible with these goals. The impact of gas drilling on these investments must be analyzed. Governor Cuomo is the only person who has the power to protect New Yorkers from the full array of impacts from gas production and infrastructure development.

6. New York State failed to provide long-term protections for drinking water sources. New Yorkers have called for banning drilling above and through aquifers that provide millions of citizens with drinking water. Yet the draft SGEIS and draft regulations still allow drilling in potable water supplies. The draft proposes to put some areas off limits to drilling, but upon closer examination, many of the restrictions have sunset dates and some protective buffers only call for site-specific individual environmental review, rather than clear restrictions.

7. No plans for disposal of hazardous fracking wastes. There are no wastewater treatment plants in New York State designed to treat wastewaters from high-volume fracking operations. The draft review and proposed regulations are unacceptably vague with regard to what will become of the billions of gallons of toxic waste that will be produced in New York State once these operations are commenced.

8. New York State failed to protect critical drinking water infrastructure. The state proposes a buffer around New York City drinking water infrastructure in which only an additional review would be required and upon which projects could be permitted-not a formal ban. The proposed buffer is only one-quarter as long as a typical horizontal well bore, too close to the sensitive, aging infrastructure that provides the city with drinking water. There are no proposed buffer requirements for Syracuse.

9. New York State failed to respect communities' local land use and zoning laws. Home rule powers to control land use and industrial development through zoning and police powers have long been established in New York State. Governor Cuomo and the DEC must respect local laws and ordinances.

10. New York State is ignoring New Yorkers' concerns and fast-tracking regulations. Despite repeated requests from residents, environmental and citizens groups, and local officials to slow down the state's environmental review and rule-making related to fracking, Governor Cuomo and the DEC last week issued proposed rules for regulating industrial gas drilling even before completing the legally required environmental review process. Insufficient time has been allowed for comments and insufficient hearings have been set. If regulations are issued before the review of environmental impacts is complete, such regulations are more likely to be insufficient to protect people and the environment.

"These are only 10 problems with New York's fracking draft SGEIS. Such glaring omissions and problems also highlight why New Yorkers cannot possibly consider draft regulations at the same time," said Sarah Eckel, Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "Ultimately, the decision about whether or not fracking moves forward in New York is in Governor Cuomo's hands. New Yorkers are relying upon Governor Cuomo to demand that these omissions and problems are fixed."

The revised dSGEIS was released on September 7th. The purpose of this document is to inform the Governor and the state's decision-making with regard to fracking. On September 28th, the state released draft fracking regulations and a draft fracking Clean Water Act permit for simultaneous review. The state's current plan puts an unreasonable burden on New Yorkers, who are now expected to simultaneously review the draft regulations released today, as well as the 1,500+ page dSGEIS. The simultaneous review will be particularly challenging for those living in areas impacted by recent flooding, whose communities are likely to see drilling.

The organizations continue to call on Governor Cuomo and the DEC to extend the current public comment period, which closes on December 12th, by 90 days and to include at least two additional public hearings in Upstate New York, particularly in communities impacted by recent flooding.

To frack a gas well, millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals are pumped deep underground at high pressure. This fractures the rock that has trapped the gas for millennia and allows it to escape. From start to finish, gas development that relies on fracking is an industrial process that threatens our water. State after state, from Wyoming to Pennsylvania, has documented its dangers. New York can't afford to put short-term gas profits ahead of the long-term health of our water and our communities.


For more information:

Erica Ringewald, 518-210-9903; eringewald@eany.org

Sarah Eckel, 518-339-2853; seckel@citizenscampaign.org

Brian Smith, 716-472-4078; bsmith@citizenscampaign.org

Nadia Steinzor, 315-677-4111; nsteinzor@earthworksaction.org

Tina Posterli, 914-478-4501x 239; tposterli@riverkeeper.org

Nicole Dillingham, 917 434 7241; nicoledillingham@me.com

Wes Gillingham, 845-901-1029; wes@catskillmountainkeeper.org

The New York Water Rangers campaign is supported by a network of organizations working to protect the rights and health of New Yorkers and one of our most precious environmental resources-water-from the dangers of irresponsible, poorly regulated and under-inspected natural gas exploration and development. The campaign is supported by Catskill Mountainkeeper, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Earthjustice, EARTHWORKS Oil & Gas Accountability Project, Environmental Advocates of New York, Environment New York, FLEASED, Natural Resources Defense Council, Otsego 2000 and Riverkeeper. Visit www.CleanWaterNotDirtyDrilling.org to learn more.