News > News > Safeguard Drinking Water > Riverkeeper Commends State Decision to Exclude New York City Watershed from Statewide Gas Drilling Review

Riverkeeper Commends State Decision to Exclude New York City Watershed from Statewide Gas Drilling Review

Ashokan Reservoir

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Contact: Tina Posterli (516) 526-9371

Tarrytown, NY — April 23, 2010 — Riverkeeper applauds New York State’s decision to treat unfiltered water supplies, like those that serve Syracuse and New York City, as especially vulnerable to the potentially devastating impacts of industrial gas drilling. While Riverkeeper will continue to seek an outright ban on drilling in the NYC Watershed, which is the only way to provide absolute and permanent protection, we believe that the State’s decision to require site-specific review within the NYC Watershed will create a significant hurdle for oil and gas companies that might have sought permits to drill there.

“While it falls short of an outright ban, DEC’s decision to segregate the permitting process for the NYC and Syracuse watersheds is a strong step in the right direction for the nearly ten million New York state residents who depend on these unfiltered systems for their drinking water,” said Riverkeeper president Alex Matthiessen. “But the devil’s in the details as to what that separate permitting process will entail and how much of an obstacle it will present to developers. Furthermore, the agency has yet to demonstrate that gas drilling is safe anywhere in the state of New York. The DEC ought to suspend its environmental review process until the U.S. EPA completes its gas drilling impacts study.”

According to the DEC press statement, and based on conversations with DEC officials, potential applications to drill in these two watershed areas will require separate, site-specific environmental reviews, a costly and time-consuming process that is likely to discourage gas companies from seeking permits there. Moreover, the DEC’s site-specific permit requirements are almost certainly going to be more stringent than those for non-excluded areas. Nonetheless, Riverkeeper will continue to press DEC to permanently ban drilling in the NYC Watershed and to propose and adopt the most stringent gas development regulations throughout the state, including measures to protect critical water supply infrastructure that lies outside the Watershed boundaries.

In addition, while unfiltered drinking water supplies are often treated differently from other areas because they enjoy “filtration avoidance” status under federal law, there are still countless other areas throughout the state that may warrant special consideration. These areas include the vast systems of creeks and rivers that comprise the upper Delaware River Basin, the Mohawk River, the upper Hudson, the Finger Lakes, and the renowned trout fishing streams of the Catskills. Before any industrial gas drilling proceeds, DEC must also devote special attention to numerous other state parks, preserves, and wetland areas which provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife, serve a variety of ecosystem functions such as water filtration, and are also major tourist and recreational destinations.

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