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Gas Drilling Update


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For the past 18 months, Riverkeeper has been working at the forefront of one of New York’s biggest environmental issues: industrial gas drilling. The stakes could not be higher, not only for the future of New York City’s unfiltered drinking water supply but for other rural upstate communities that will be forever changed if drilling is allowed to proceed as it is currently proposed.

As highlighted in the first 5 volumes of our Industrial Gas Drilling Reporter, we have been tracking this issue around the clock. Each day brings new stories of environmental problems associated with hydrofracking, a process that involves the use of a slurry of over 270 chemicals (guarded by the industry as trade secrets) that are pumped thousands of feet below ground along with millions of gallons of water in order to extract the gas.

Hydrofracking has been linked to hundreds of cases of environmental contamination around the country, ranging from flammable tap water in Colorado to dead cattle in Louisiana, and from earthquakes in Texas to well water contamination in Wyoming and massive fish kills in Pennsylvania.

Riverkeeper staff testified recently at a public hearing in New York City to address the concerns we have with New York State’s recently issued draft environmental impact statement (EIS). The state’s EIS for potential hydrofracking operations statewide is unfortunately one of the worst EISs we’ve seen in recent memory. Principal among our concerns in our ongoing review of the draft EIS is the failure by DEC to adequately analyze and address the following:

(1) Establishment of exclusionary zones and permanent protection measures for critically important environmental areas such as the New York City Watershed;

(2) Cumulative impacts to the State’s air and water resources that would result from high-volume hydraulic fracturing operations statewide;

(3) Economic costs associated with environmental contamination including, but not limited to, the potential costs of constructing, operating, and maintaining a filtration system for the Catskill-Delaware drinking water supply system in the event that contamination threatens New York City’s current filtration avoidance determination (“FAD”);

(4) Economic value and benefits of intact forest and wetland ecosystems, including the services such ecosystems provide in terms of clean air, clean water, tourism, recreation, and community character; and

(5) Whether the State has the financial and personnel resources necessary to adequately permit, monitor, and inspect hydraulic fracturing operations and to enforce state regulations and permit conditions in the event of environmental contamination; and if not, the amount of additional funds and resources needed by each division within DEC to properly regulate hydraulic fracturing statewide. Download Testimony

We will continue to update you as the public comment period draws to a close (the current deadline is December 31, 2009) to let you know how you can help send a strong message to Governor Paterson and DEC that the draft EIS is inadequate and does not properly address the cumulative environmental impacts of industrial gas drilling in New York.

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