New York Steps Closer To Allowing Hydrofracking

link to full article here: http://planetark.org/enviro-news/item/62485

New York state would throw open its share of one of the world’s richest natural gas deposits to drilling under recommendations made by its environmental agency, creating a potential boom feared by environmentalists.

While taking steps to protect New York City’s drinking water, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recommendations to Governor Andrew Cuomo would lift an effective moratorium on the controversial natural gas extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing.

Also called “fracking” or “hydrofracking,” the process blasts vast amounts of water mixed with sand and chemicals deep into shale rock, freeing trapped gas. Critics say leaks of the chemicals at the surface endanger groundwater and that drilling operations pollute the air.

“The summary announced today seems to completely ignore the fact that the fracking is unsafe and that the industrial waste produced by this process is hazardous and needs to be treated as such,” said Ramsay Adams, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper.

Industry officials say opponents have exaggerated the environmental impact, while economic benefits to the state would be significant. New York is home to a large piece of the Marcellus Shale, a massive formation believed to be one of the richest natural gas deposits on the planet.

Natural gas drilling in New York state would lead to $11.4 billion in economic output and raise $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenue, according to a study led by Timothy Considine, a professor of energy economics at the University of Wyoming and an advocate for drilling in New York.

“Governor Cuomo has made a courageous and sound decision based on the facts and the merits of shale drilling,” Considine said. “The upstate New York economy is quite depressed and needs a shot in the arm. This will be very good for that particular region.”

The DEC’s recommendations could become law after a 60-day period for public comment and an environmental impact statement. The agency recommended not drilling in the watersheds that serve New York City and Syracuse.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the DEC made the right decision in rejecting drilling in the city’s watershed.

“Governor Cuomo and (DEC) Commissioner Joseph Martens deserve an enormous amount of credit for protecting the unfiltered drinking water supplies of more than 9 million New Yorkers, while increasing our ability to harness the benefits of New York’s natural gas resources,” Bloomberg said in a statement.

Sheldon Silver, New York Assembly Speaker and a Manhattan Democrat, urged the state to wait until the federal Environmental Protection Agency finishes its review.

“There are simply too many unknowns to risk inflicting long-term, potentially catastrophic damage to New York’s environment and water supply,” he said.

Drilling also would be banned within primary aquifers and surface drilling prohibited on state-owned land, including parks, forest areas and wildlife management areas.

Environmentalists have argued that if drilling in the watershed is unsafe, it should be considered unsafe anywhere.

“All parts of the state deserve to be protected equally from this environmentally destructive drilling technique,” Environmental Advocates of New York said in a statement.

Considine, the University of Wyoming professor, looked at the environmental impact of drilling in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania to gauge the impact in New York. Of the 2,139 wells drilled from 2008 to 2010 in the Pennsylvania Marcellus shale, 1,924 incurred environmental violations, the report said.

(Additional reporting by Edward McAllister; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Dale Hudson and Lisa Shumaker)

‘Fracking’ ban omits river land, infuriating foes

link to full article here: http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110701/NEWS/107010353By Steve Israel

Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM – 07/01/11

ALBANY — The state’s long awaited regulations for “fracking” would ban such drilling for natural gas in the New York City watershed — a tiny fraction of which is in Sullivan County — and in the Syracuse watershed.

The proposed regulations, which will be given to Gov. Andrew Cuomo Friday, also would prohibit fracking within primary aquifers like reservoirs and lakes, and within 500 feet of their boundaries, according to a summary released Thursday by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Delaware River basin, which covers much of western Sullivan County — and sits on the gas-rich Marcellus Shale — is not included in the ban on the controversial horizontal drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing.

And while the state’s proposed regulations would not allow that drilling on the surface of state-owned land, including parks, forests and wildlife management areas, fracking would apparently be permitted beneath the land.

While the recommendations aim to strike a balance between environmental protection and economic development, about 85 percent of Marcellus Shale in the Southern Tier — along with much of Sullivan — would be available for drilling under the proposed rules that are sure to elicit thousands of comments in a 60-day public comment period beginning in August.

No permits for drilling can be issued until those comments are reviewed and a final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement is released. The final version of regulations will become state law, which would further extend the delay for drilling permits.

Other highlights of the summary include:

– No permits will be issued within 500 feet of a private water well.
– Drilling will not be allowed within 2,000 feet of a public well or reservoir until at least three years of experience elsewhere have been evaluated.
– Drilling must be consistent with local zoning.
– No permits will be issued within a 100-year flood plain.
– The DEC must approve plans for wastewater disposal.
– Drillers must disclose the ingredients of all fracking fluids — which contain toxic chemicals — to the DEC. The additives must be made public “subject to appropriate protections for proprietary information.”

While the DEC touts the proposed environmental protections, one leading anti-drilling group slammed the summary.

“A road map for the industrialization of the Catskills; the fact that the Delaware River isn’t protected is outrageous,” said Ramsay Adams, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper. “It’s clear they haven’t developed a plan to deal with wastewater and there’s no cumulative impact study. We’ll fight like hell to stop this.”

Pro drillers said they needed more time to review the recommendations, which will be released July 8.

“IOGA of New York looks forward to reviewing the (recommendations) to determine if the protections … strike a fair balance between protecting New York’s environment and allowing the expansion of natural gas exploration,” Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, said.

EPA focuses on water in ‘fracking’

link to full article here: http://www.buffalonews.com/business/article494642.ece

As new proposals move ahead on possibly opening much of the state to a controversial natural gas drilling technique, federal environmental regulators are working on a study to examine how those methods will affect water supplies.

But while the state’s rules, currently under review, could lead to the drilling of the first horizontal natural gas wells during the early part of next year, the study by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency isn’t expected to be completed until 2014. A draft of the EPA study will be available next year.

“With the timing, we’re not in sync with the state schedule,” said Judith A. Enck, the administrator for the EPA’s Region 2 office, which includes New York.

Some environmental activists have urged the state to wait until the results of the EPA study are released before opening the door to high-volume hydraulic fracturing drilling techniques. An Energy Department panel is expected to issue its own recommendations later this summer.

State environmental officials, however, have said they believe the state’s proposed rules are the most comprehensive in the nation.

State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens said last week that the state could amend its rules if the EPA study uncovers any weaknesses in the regulations.

Enck said she expects the EPA to take a comprehensive look at how hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” and horizontal drilling techniques that use millions of gallons of water to blast free natural gas deposits affect water supplies.

“We care a lot about the air impacts of hydraulic fracturing. We care a lot about the impact on the landscape from hydraulic fracturing. But more than anything, we care about the water impacts,” Enck said Tuesday during a meeting with reporters and editors at The Buffalo News.

Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, said the potential benefits of stepped-up natural gas drilling — from thousands of new jobs to lucrative payments to landowners — are too valuable to delay.

More than 3,000 hydraulically fractured horizontal wells already have been drilled in Pennsylvania, creating thousands of jobs and spurring economic activity across much of the north-cental part of that state.

“We’re delaying and losing out on economic opportunity,” Gill said Tuesday during a live chat on The News website, buffalonews. com. “There’s no telling how more delayed the EPA will be, and it’s not exclusive to New York State. Nobody knows the state’s industry better than the DEC. In 30 years, I’ve never seen an EPA agent out on a New York State drill site.”

In addition to the impact of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water supplies and wells, the EPA study will examine the treatment and disposal of millions of gallons of water, treated with chemicals and sand, used to “frack” each well.

“It’s going to be a very detailed analysis,” Enck said. “The water issues are the ones that are the most challenging.”

A consortium of environmental groups released a critique Tuesday of the DEC’s proposed rules that found them lacking in 10 main areas.

The consortium of five environmental groups criticized the state plan for not calling for a ban on any chemicals, even toxic ones, in fracking fluid. It also faulted the plan for not categorizing fracking drilling waste as hazardous waste and for allowing sewage plants to treat that waste.

“No amount of regulation, no amount of permitting guidelines and no amount of laws and ordinances can protect our water and communities from a reckless industry when our regulatory agencies don’t have the staff and resources to enforce the laws they have, no matter how stringent they are,” said Ramsay Adams, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper.

Horizontal wells go straight down for about a mile, then gradually turn at almost a 90- degree angle and continue for a half mile to nearly a mile horizontally, through the gas-rich layer of rock known as the Marcellus Shale.

Drillers then inject millions of gallons of water, chemically treated to kill bacteria and prevent scale buildup up on pipes, into the well at high pressure to produce tiny cracks in the rock to free the gas. They also use small explosive charges.

The technique allows drillers to tap into much larger supplies of gas from a single drill site, which can have as many as six wells extending out in different directions. A single well can cost more than $4 million, but successful wells can produce gas at very high rates.

In addition to the potential impact on water supplies, opponents say the drilling activity can cause other environmental damage through increased truck traffic and the construction of roads and pipelines through rural areas.

Most of the drilling, however, probably would miss most of Western New York, except for the eastern-most portion of Allegany County.

Unlike the layer across much of Central New York, geologists said the Marcellus Shale throughout most of the western part of the state is too thin and shallow to hold vast quantities of natural gas. Instead, most of the drilling is expected to focus on the portions of the Southern Tier from Steuben County eastward to Delaware County.

drobinson@buffnews.comnull

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A Clash Over Gas Drilling in New York

link to complete article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/14/opinion/l14fracking.html

To the Editor:

Re “Safe, Not Sorry, on Drilling” (editorial, July 9):

Your editorial perpetuates the industry view that “nobody doubts the value of natural gas, an abundant, cleaner and more climate-friendly fuel than coal or oil.”

Research by Prof. Robert Howarth at Cornell and others shows that the methane seepage from wells, pipelines and compressor stations may more than cancel out any carbon dioxide advantages gained in the combustion of natural gas.

That, along with the energy-intensive costs of drilling and distribution, suggests that natural gas obtained through hydraulic fracturing may be at least as polluting as other fossil fuels.

ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Fly Creek, N.Y., July 9, 2011

The writer is the founder of Sustainable Otsego, an advocacy group.

To the Editor:

Re “Cuomo Moving to End a Freeze on Gas Drilling” (front page, July 1):

I am deeply troubled by your coverage of my agency’s new proposed recommendations for high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York State.

This is a very important issue for New York. No permits will be issued until the environmental review process is complete, which is many months away. Your coverage has created more heat than light on hydraulic fracturing at a crucial moment in the rulemaking process.

The single environmental organization whose viewpoint was included in the article was Environmental Advocates of New York when several other environmental groups — the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Adirondack Mountain Club and the New York League of Conservation Voters — all released statements supportive of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s proposal.

The New York Times has a responsibility to present accurate and balanced coverage of such a controversial matter, and it failed miserably in this case.

JOE MARTENS
Commissioner, New York State Dept.
of Environmental Conservation
Albany, July 1, 2011

To the Editor:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his environmental commissioner, Joe Martens, have taken an encouraging step by proposing to prohibit shale gas drilling in New York’s most sensitive water resources — the unfiltered New York City and Syracuse watersheds; primary aquifers; floodplains; and on the surface of state-owned parks, forests and wildlife areas.

But all New York communities must be protected from the hazards posed by high-volume hydraulic fracturing. We recommend that Commissioner Martens provide an extended (120-day) public comment period on the complex new proposal.

And we urge him to refrain from issuing any new permits until the most stringent, comprehensive drilling rules have been put into place and a hard-charging enforcement team has been positioned to prevent slipshod drilling practices from poisoning New York’s air, water and land.

KATE SINDING
ERIC A. GOLDSTEIN
Senior Attorneys
Natural Resources Defense Council
New York, July 5, 2011

To the Editor:

I live in the Southern Tier of New York. I depend on 50 acres of watershed for the water that is piped to my house. So let’s call the lifting of the hydrofracking ban except in the watersheds for New York City and Syracuse what it is — the sacrifice of rural New York State for the benefit of urban New York State.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s job description is to be the governor for all the people of the state. My water and the water of my neighbors need to be protected as much as that of any other citizen.

GRAHAM MARKS
Andover, N.Y., July 3, 2011

To the Editor:

For years, the natural gas industry has misled the public into believing that we can tap vast stores of cheap energy from shale. Upon that false promise, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo now suggests that we lift the temporary state ban on hydraulic fracturing. Fracking is a dangerous, destructive and unsustainable way to extract gas from shale. Lifting the ban would expose our workers, our families and our waters to needless risk.

And for what? As The Times reported in its “Drilling Down” series, gas companies have systematically inflated production estimates and lowballed cost projections to make fracking look more attractive to investors, regulators and policy makers.

Members of Congress have asked for an investigation. The attorney general of New York has started an inquiry.

This is no time to lift the fracking ban; it’s time to make it permanent. That’s the way to protect our workers and waters and to safeguard the resources that belong to us all.

RAMSAY ADAMS
Livingston Manor, N.Y., July 1, 2011

The writer is executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, an environmental advocacy organization in western New York.

Reactions to NY’s fracking regulations pour in

Published: 2:00 AM – 07/10/11

It was the moment anyone who cares about our region’s most divisive issue — gas drilling — was waiting for: last week’s release of a summary of the proposed state regulations for “fracking” the gas-rich Marcellus shale, which sits beneath Sullivan County and much of the Southern Tier.

Folks are still digesting the near-1,000 page document that Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens says “strikes the right balance between protecting our environment, watersheds and drinking water and promoting economic development.”

But it includes bans on drilling in the watersheds of New York City, a sliver of which sits in Sullivan, and Syracuse. Drilling also would be prohibited within aquifers and on state land, although the horizontal drilling method of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” would apparently be allowed thousands of feet beneath that land, and on nearly 85 percent of the Marcellus shale, including most of Sullivan.

Although the complete document was just released Friday — at http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/75370.html — the reactions to the document that could ultimately regulate drilling are pouring in:

 

A good move

Bill Graby of Callicoon, co-leader of the Sullivan-Delaware Property Owners Association, which wants to lease some 70,000 acres of land for drilling: “A huge step in the right direction. I’ve always known it can be done safely. If all the antis would get off their high horses instead of fighting something that’s going to benefit everybody, we could all work together to make this even safer.”

Added Noel Van Swol of Fremont, Graby’s co-leader: “The … DEC study, which is based on hard science, not ideology, proves that fracking is safe.”

 

They’re stealing our land

Ramsay Adams, executive director of Youngsville-based Catskill Mountainkeeper, which wants a statewide ban on fracking:

“A road map for stealing our commons — our water, our land, our air. It’s handing over what is ours to an industry that seems to be criminal (referring to New York Times reports that the gas industry overestimated the amount and profitability of gas). For the Cuomo administration to be out in front of this flies in the face of common sense.”

 

Let’s see how the DRBC reacts

Mike Uretsky, a member of the task force on energy established by the National Petroleum Council at the request of Energy Secretary Steven Chu:

“I’m extraordinarily happy,” said the Pennsylvania resident who’s leased his land for drilling. “This is coming from a guy (Martens) who has an environmental background, who was one of the most influential people in the environmental movement. It’s going to put pressure on the Delaware River Basin Commission (which is developing its own regulations for drilling along the Delaware) not to duplicate their regulations and concentrate on water withdrawals and flow.”

 

Still no assurances

Bruce Ferguson, Callicoon Center, of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy: “Extracting gas … using today’s technology will necessarily entail injecting hundreds of billions of gallons of unrecoverable toxic fluid beneath our aquifers. The revised draft fails to demonstrate that, over time, these toxic fluids, as well as the gas itself, will not migrate into groundwater and drinking- water supplies. Unless and until New Yorkers can be assured that water supplies will not be compromised, (drilling) should not go forward.”

 

Saving the watersheds

Joe Martens, DEC Commissioner: “I believe (fracking) can be done safely).”

On why it’s banned in the Syracuse and New York City watersheds, and not the rest of the state: The watersheds where fracking was banned were singled out because they’re the only two unfiltered systems in the state.

“These are very … unique areas, and we’re recognizing them as such with a total ban.”

Ban Fracking in New York, Environmental Groups Tell Governor

link to complete article here: http://www.newsinferno.com/fracking/ban-fracking-in-new-york-environmental-groups-tell-governor/

More than 40 environmental groups are opposing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to lift a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the state, following release of a Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) report that recommended the controversial natural gas drilling procedure be allowed. The coalition, which includes Food & Water Watch, Frack Action, Democracy for America, Friends of the Earth, Credo Action, Center for Heath Environment and Justice, Catskill Mountainkeeper and Citizen Action New York, recently presented a letter to the governor calling for a state-wide ban on fracking.

A moratorium on high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing expired in New York on July 1. While the Democratic-controlled State Assembly did vote to extend the moratorium for another year, a similar bill has gained no traction in the Senate. However, a de facto ban has been in place since 2008 while the DEC prepared a report on the environmental impacts of fracking.

That DEC fracking report was issued on July 1. The DEC is now recommending that horizontal, high-volume fracking be allowed in the most of the state, with the exception of the environmentally sensitive watersheds that supply New York City and Syracuse with drinking water. Such drilling would also be banned within primary aquifers and surface drilling prohibited in state parks and other state-owned land. Fracking on private land would be subject to “rigorous and effective controls,” a DEC statement said. Other restrictions would include rules prohibiting this type of drilling “within 500 feet of a private water well or domestic-use spring,” or within 2,000 feet of a public reservoir or drinking water supply without further study, a New York Times report said.

The DEC’s recommendations mean that approximately 85 percent of the Marcellus Shale in New York would be accessible to natural gas extraction under these recommendations, according to the DEC.

The 49-member coalition opposed to fracking in New York warns that thousands of natural gas wells that require billions of gallons of water will be drilled across New York if Cuomo goes along with the DEC. The spike in drilling activity would also cause scores of rural communities to become industrialized.

“The DEC’s recommendations on fracking will turn many areas of New York into sacrifice zones, allowing this toxic, polluting practice at the detriment of public health, the environment and rural economies,” Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said in a statement. “We urge Governor Cuomo to protect New York and its residents over the special interests of the oil and gas industry by banning hydraulic fracturing in New York State.”

“Governor Cuomo got it wrong when he said fracking can be done safely,” said Claire Sandberg, executive director of Frack Action. “Not only does this practice carry an unacceptable level of risk, but there is no rationale for drilling when we know that the promises of limitless energy and continuous economic growth are not borne out by the facts.”

The coalition’s statement also pointed out that more than 60 communities across the U.S. have already banned fracking.

New Yorkers opposed to fracking in the state still have time to convince the governor to ban the drilling. As we’ve reported previously, a 60-day public comment period on the DEC’s draft regulations begins next month. The DEC then will review those comments and make final revisions before issuing any new drilling permits.

 
NewsInferno.com disclaimer: This article: Ban Fracking in New York, Environmental Groups Tell Governor was posted on Friday, July 8th, 2011 at 8:32 am at NewsInferno.com and is filed under Hydraulic Fracturing / Fracking.

Josh Fox, Joe Levine, Al Appleton, Ramsay Adams, Mark Ruffalo, Arts for Peace, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability & NYH20 Announce The Citizens for Water Foundation

link to complete article here: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20110711006536/en/Josh-Fox-Joe-Levine-Al-Appleton-Ramsay

“The technology used to get gas flowing out of the ground — called hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking — can require over a million gallons of water per well, and some of that water must be disposed of because it becomes contaminated by the process. If shale gas wells fade faster than expected, energy companies will have to drill more wells or hydrofrack them more often, resulting in more toxic waste.”

– New York Times, “Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush,” June 25, 2011

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Citizens for Water Foundation (CWF) is a 501(c) not-for-profit organization committed to protecting and preserving America’s water resources today and for all future generations. CWF was formed in response to the accelerating development of extreme methods of fossil fuel extraction throughout the US and specifically, hydraulic-fracturing in the northeast.

“Whether extracting oil from tar sands in Canada, mountaintop removal for coal in Appalachia, or deepwater drilling in the Gulf, we cannot afford to ruin our water supply. The cost now and to future generations is simply too great.”

“Fracking and other extreme fossil fuel development present dangerous and shortsighted solutions to the world’s energy needs,” says CWF Co-Executive Director Joe Levine. “Whether extracting oil from tar sands in Canada, mountaintop removal for coal in Appalachia, or deepwater drilling in the Gulf, we cannot afford to ruin our water supply. The cost now and to future generations is simply too great.”

CWF is a coalition of business leaders, industry specialists, scientists, activists, organizations and everyday citizens. Architect and grassroots organizer Joe Levine and project developer and water activist Richard Murdock lead the coalition as Co-Executive Directors. Additional experts and affiliates include international water resource expert Al Appleton, Josh Fox, writer and director of the Academy Award nominated documentary ‘Gasland,’ actor and anti-fracking activist Mark Ruffalo, Executive Director of Catskill Mountainkeeper Ramsay Adams, The Arts for Peace Initiative (in Support of the UN Water for Life Decade for Action), NYH20, Damascus Citizens For Sustainability, and The Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design.

The organization maintains that all people have a fundamental, universal human right to clean water. CWF is dedicated to educating the public about the serious health, environmental and economic impacts created by fracking and other extreme fossil fuel extraction. CWF provides essential tools to educate and assist communities in protecting their natural resources.

CWF provides a forum for an ever-expanding network of regional and national experts in the field of environmental law, conservation, sustainable energy development, watershed and foodshed management. CWF engages audiences, policy makers, community leaders and citizens in the necessary and vital transition away from fossil fuel dependence to a renewable clean energy future.

The dangers of fracking include drinking water contaminated with toxic chemicals and radioactive waste, residents getting sick, livestock dropping dead, gas wells exploding, and property values tanking,” says Ramsay Adams. Fracking is about money and greed, not energy independence, and what’s at stake here is our water, our health and our land.”

CWF will soon announce plans for a major awareness-raising event, “Concert For Water,” to be overseen by producer Paul Waterman of Cosmic Screen to take place in New York City later this fall. Further details TBA. For more information please visit www.citizensforwater.org.

 

Contacts

Susan Blond, Inc.
Leslie Hermelin, 212-333-7728 ext. 131
leslieh@susanblondinc.com