49 Groups Call on Cuomo for Statewide Fracking Ban



link to complete article here: http://www.northcentralpa.com/feeditem/2011-07-07_49-groups-call-cuomo-statewide-fracking-ban%E2%80%A8%E2%80%A8

Broad-Based Coalition Denounces DEC Fracking Plan, Demands Protection for all New Yorkers From Fracking
Albany, N.Y.— Following Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to allow the process of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) across 85 percent of New York’s Marcellus Shale, a coalition of 49 consumer, faith, food, environmental and multi-issue advocacy organizations today called for a statewide ban on fracking. The coalition includes several national and state organizations including 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.
Last week, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released its recommendations on fracking, allowing the practice in most areas of the state outside of the New York City and Syracuse watersheds. The DEC’s plan, which informed Governor Cuomo’s decision, leaves many New Yorkers without equal protection from the environmental and public health risks associated with fracking, and still exposes New York City and Syracuse residents to many impacts of shale gas drilling, including toxic air emissions.
“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,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “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.”
Under the DEC’s plan, thousands of new wells will be drilled across New York, using billions of gallons of fresh water, and industrializing rural communities across the state. Opponents of fracking fear that allowing the practice to flourish in some areas will breed catastrophic accidents that could affect all New York residents.
“Has governor Cuomo been hoodwinked by industry into thinking this is safe? The fact remains that New York needs to have some serious fundamental questions answered about the dangers of hydro- fracturing, not just carve out some special places to placate New York City,” said Wes Gillingham, Program Director, Catskill Mountainkeeper.
“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 also presented Governor Cuomo with a letter signed by 49 organizations urging him to ban fracking in New York.
“By banning fracking in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, the Cuomo administration is clearly demonstrating awareness about the potential for serious hazard to the citizens of those municipalities,” said David Braun, co-founder of United for Action. “ It is unacceptable however, that they create a double standard and leave the rest of the good citizens of New York state completely vulnerable to serious toxic threat, and protect only a portion of the population.  Why are upstate citizens any less important?” 

“Fracked natural gas is a dirty fuel that will make global warming worse,” said Alex Moore, dirty fuels campaigner, Friends of the Earth. “Governor Cuomo should put clean water and a safe environment ahead of gas company profits.”
This opposition to fracking heats up here as other states have passed legislation banning the practice. Last week, the New Jersey State legislature sent Governor Chris Christie a bill that would ban fracking in the state, and North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue recently vetoed a bill that would have allowed fracking. To date, more than 60 municipalities in the United States have passed measures against fracking.
“It’s clear that New Yorkers strongly oppose fracking, and want all of their water protected from it. Nearly 20,000 New Yorkers signed our petition to Governor Cuomo in just the first 24 hours,” said Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager, CREDO Action. “It would be outrageous for Governor Cuomo to allow fracking in New York.”
A recent investigative series by The New York Times found that the natural gas industry has exaggerated the economic benefits of fracking, while downplaying its risks to public health and the environment.
“It’s wrong and unfair for the Cuomo administration to lift the ban on fracking, as it is a technology that has proven to destroy land, water, public health and economic growth,” said Lois Marie Gibbs, executive director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice.  “It is especially despicable to provide an exception for the Syracuse and New York City watersheds, while opening up the rest of the state to hazardous drilling.  If it’s too dangerous for these urban areas, then it is too dangerous for all of New York. People across the state deserve equal protection.  Governor Cuomo, don’t frack New York!”
Opponents of fracking worry that Cuomo’s support of the practice in some areas of New York signals a deference to industry. Thousands of New Yorkers have called Governor Cuomo’s offices asking him to ban fracking and hundreds of concerned citizens have flooded his Facebook page, asking him to assert real leadership by banning fracking in New York.
Groups urging Governor Cuomo to ban fracking in New York include:
Food & Water Watch; Frack Action; CREDO Action; Center for Health, Environment & Justice; Citizen Action of New York; Friends of the Earth; Democracy for America; NYH20; Damascus Citizens for Sustainability; United for Action; WBAI-FM, NYC; New York Residents Against Drilling; WaterDefense; FarmHearts; Chenango Delaware Otsego Gas Drilling Opposition Group; Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition; Brooklyn Food Coalition; “Gasland”; Sane Energy Project; NY Permaculture Exchange; WNY Drilling Defense; No Frack NY; The Village Independent Democrats; Advocates for Morris; New Yorkers for Clean Water Inc.; NO Gas Pipeline; FrackAlert, Inc.; The Green Sanctuary Committee, the Community Church of NY, Unitarian Universalist; Action for Justice Committee, the Community Church of NY, Unitarian Universalist; Westchester for Change; Democracy for New York City; People for a Healthy Environment; New York Yearly Meeting, Religious Society of Friends; Environmental Task Force; Hopewell Junction Citizens for Clean Water; Empire State Consumer Project; Slow Food New York City; STARK and Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition; Hudson River Sloop, Clearwater Inc.; Earth Day Network New York; Chenango Community Action for Renewable Energy; Gas Drilling Awareness for Cortland County; NYC Network; Huntington BC Action Coalition; Coalition to Protect New York; Moving in Congregations, Acting in Hope; Clean Water New York; Gray Panthers, NYC Network; Schoharie Valley Watch; Grassroots Environmental Education.
Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch.org.
Frack Action is engaged in a long-term campaign to protect our water, air and public health from the dangerous practice of hydraulic fracturing. By raising awareness and empowering the public to organize in defense of their communities, we seek to expose the false claims of the gas industry and mobilize a citizen movement to protect our health and our future.
NYH2O, Inc. is a nonprofit advocacy group based in New York City that is dedicated to protecting New York’s water resources from the threat posed by the gas extraction industry. The industry has targeted the Southern Tier of New York State, including New York City’s Catskill-Delaware Watershed that provides pristine, unfiltered water to 9 million New York residents. NYH2O seeks to educate the public concerning the health, environmental and economic impacts of gas drilling as experienced by communities across the country where this intensive, industrial activity has taken place. NYH2O will support legislation that safeguards the public from the risk to water resources and air quality that ultimately threatens the health of our community.
Protecting the watersheds for all citizens. Damascus Citizens for Sustainability is collaborating with universities, national, regional, and local organizations, business and community leaders, elected officials, farmers, artists, and citizens to preserve and protect clean air, land, and pure water as a civil right, and basic human right.
Catskill Mountainkeeper is a community based environmental advocacy organization, dedicated to creating a flourishing sustainable economy in the Catskills and preserving and protecting the area’s long- term health. We address issues of water integrity for the Delaware and Susquehanna River Systems, the defense of the vast woodlands that encompass the Catskill Forest Preserve and the New York City Watershed as well as farmland protection. We promote “smart” development that balances the economic needs and concerns of the Catskill regions’ citizens and the protection of our abundant but exceedingly vulnerable natural resources.

DEC Opens Eighty Percent of N.Y. to Fracking

Reversing his agency’s previous position, New York State’s chief environmental regulator now recommends an outright ban on high-volume hydrofracking within the New York City and Syracuse watersheds.

Joseph Martens, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, made the announcement July 1 just before the agency released major portions of its heavily revised rules for the controversial natural gas drilling technique.

Martens, who was appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January, also said the DEC would drop its recommendation to allow drilling within state forests, wildlife areas and parklands. It also seeks for the first time a ban on fracking in primary aquifers.

The proposed new fracking bans represent a major departure from the DEC’s 2009 supplemental generic environmental impact statement.

“We know there were inadequacies in the 2009 SGEIS,” particularly in its treatment of the likely socio-economic impacts of a fracking boom in upstate New York, Martens told a press conference audience in Albany.

The announcement drew strong reactions from drilling opponents.

The environmental group Catskill Mountainkeeper called on the DEC to follow the New Jersey Legislature’s recent example and extend the fracking ban statewide.

“This is a clear signal by the Cuomo Administration that we’re creating a roadmap for hydrofracking to go forward in New York,” said Wes Gillingham, the group’s program director.

Richard Lippes, a Buffalo attorney who rose to prominence in the Love Canal toxic chemical case in the late 1970s, called Martens’ announcement “a step in the right direction,” though one that does not go far enough.

“I wonder why outright ban is necessary for folks in New York City and Syracuse but not the rest of the state,” Lippes said.

But Lippes praised the advisory panel Martens has assembled to help complete the details of fracking regulation in New York, saying it was far superior to a similar advisory panel in Pennsylvania, which is stocked with gas industry insiders.

“Clearly, the advisory board in New York attempts to assure that the environmental community is represented,” Lippes added.

Martens released most of the revised 2011 SGEIS July 1, but noted that it would be amended in late July to include conclusions about socio-economic issues reached by a private consulting firm, Ecology & Environment Inc. of Buffalo.

After the draft SGEIS is completed on or about Aug. 1, the DEC will open a 60-day public comment period. Then it will review all comments and incorporate responses, as necessary, into a final SGEIS.

The provisions in the final document will then be codified into formal regulations. Previously, the DEC had said such regulations were not necessary. Martens said that writing well drilling permit conditions in formal state rules was a “belt and suspenders” precaution.

The DEC will begin accepting permit applications after the final SGEIS is completed in several months, Martens said. It is “highly unlikely” permits would be granted this year, he added.

When asked whether permits would be considered and possibly even granted before the rule-making process was finished, Martens quickly answered, “Yes.”

Gillingham of Catskill Mountainkeeper said that stance confirms that the DEC is committed to opening the door to fracking throughout most of New York State despite the fact that cities, regions, states and foreign countries are turning to outright fracking bans.

Martens said that “upwards of 80 percent” of New York’s natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale area would be available for fracking under the recommendations he described at the press conference.

The most common form of modern high-volume fracking involves a combination of horizontal drilling and the use of up to 4 million gallons of water, along with chemicals, in each well. Water that flows back to the surface after fracking, typically 1 million or more gallons per well, is extremely salty and is often laced with radioactive elements and other dangerous compounds.

At the July 1 press conference, Martens acknowledged that the DEC lacks sufficient staff to process a flood of fracking applications.

Martens said his advisory panel would recommend funding to support hiring an appropriate number of new environmental regulators to handle the demand. He said if the DEC does not obtain additional staff,  a backlog of well permit applications could develop.

The Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York said they would withhold comment until they had a chance to read the full DEC document. But in a prepared statement issued June 30, IOGA-NY spokesman Brad Gill said:

“IOGA of New York looks forward to reviewing the SGEIS to determine if the protections outlined by the state Department of Environmental Conservation strike a fair balance between protecting New York’s environment and allowing the expansion of natural gas exploration in New York’s Southern Tier.”

Peter Mantius

Peter Mantius

Peter Mantius is a reporter in New York. He covered business, law and politics at The Atlanta Constitution from 1983-2000. He has also served as the editor of business weeklies in Hartford, CT, and Long Island. He is the author of Shell Game (St. Martin’s Press 1995), a nonfiction book on Saddam Hussein’s secret use of a bank office in Atlanta to finance billions of dollars in arms purchases from Western countries before the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Industry giant to invest $1 billion in natural gas; question remain about true profits

NEW PALTZ, NY (WAMC) – As oil and gas companies wait to find out how much access they’ll have in New York to natural gas resources, there are indications of how businesses in the industry are faring, and how willing they are to invest. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Greg Fry reports…

On Monday, Chesapeake Energy unveiled what it calls a bold plan to transform the US transportation fuels market. The company will invest over a billion dollars in the next ten years, in an attempt to “utilize abundant domestic supplies of natural gas and oil.”

Chesapeake is one of the industry’s leading companies, and has its eyes set on New York, because of its rich natural gas resources.

Steve Everley is a spokesperson for Energy in Depth, a Washington DC based organization that supports the natural gas industry. He says there’s a vast energy source under our feet, which can be safely and responsibly developed. He says when that opportunity exists, it is hard to look past it.

Energy in Depth officials point to a new report from the US Energy Information Administration, which highlights an increased amount of natural gas production in the country – at levels not seen since the 70’s. That report also states that new advancements in technology could make well drilling and natural gas extraction more productive, and less costly. Everley says new opportunities arise every year. He says that’s due to new technology, and the discovery of more basins to explore in.

But, it’s a troubling report for those who are opposed to drilling, and more specifically, high-volume hydraulic fracturing, the controversial process being proposed to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in New York. Ramsay Adams heads the environmental preservation group Catskill Mountainkeeper. He questions how profitable the industry truly is, and the amount in subsidies given to companies. Adams says the whole question about natural gas as a transition fuel is in question. He says it’s no surprise in light of multiple stories about the industry, and the response from industry officials.

On a consistent basis, reports are touted by industry officials, which show the potential for economic development brought on by natural gas exploration. The counter to that comes in reports that show damage done to areas around well sites, and in municipalities, along with questions about where the jobs go once a company is finished extracting gas from a certain area.

Adams says natural gas was called the next super-giant, but says companies realize that they have to strike now, due to competition. He says the way for companies to do that is to invest billions of dollars right now. Chesapeake Energy Announcement © Copyright 2011, WAMC

Banning Corporate Personhood: How Communities Are Taking the Law Back from Big Companies

link to complete article here: http://www.alternet.org/water/151646/banning_corporate_personhood%3A_how_communities_are_taking_the_law_back_from_big_companies

Ben Price of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund explains how communities can fight corporate power with a new legal weapon.

These last few days for gas drilling news in New York as been critical and a new level of urgency has been reached as the country watches how New York defines and decides its fate, the future of its famous unfiltered water supply, and communities in the directly impacted regions, whether for or against drilling are forging ahead to determine their immediate future and that for future generations.  

It’s coming down to Home Rule and self-determination as a way to protect municipalities from fracking. As the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) releases New Recommendations for Drilling in New York explained in the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) released a few days ago, environmental groups, like Catskill Mountainkeeper are calling for a statewide ban and municipalities organize to decide the fate of their towns.

One of the important and positive points in the otherwise very problematic and potentially dangerous draft, combined with a governor apparently wanting to surge forward with gas extraction is this: “Local Land Use & Zoning: Applicant must certify that a proposed activity is consistent with local land use and zoning laws. Failure to certify or a challenge by a locality would trigger additional DEC review before a permit could be issued.” These words in the SGEIS give further power to Home Rule.  

The Highland and Lumberland Committees on Energy and the Environment formed last year to decide the fate of their towns. They sponsored a forum on February 19th that was held at the Eldred High School to talk about the options that municipalities have to protect themselves from being industrialized and how the power of Home Rule can be preserved. The speakers were Helen Slottje, an attorney with the Community Environmental Defense Council based in Ithaca, NY and Ben Price, the Projects Director from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) located in Chambersburg, PA. Ben Price has been advising residents about stopping fracking in their communities acting on the premise that they already have the right to say no. He states, “…You have the right to protect your community, your families, your kids, your property values, your drinking water. These are fundamental rights…”  

More towns in upstate New York are re-writing their plans and residents are becoming involved in their town politics whether organizing educational meetings, deciding to run for office and reaching out for advice. One such person is Narrowsburg resident Andrea Reynosa, an artist and farmer who lives with her family on a homestead that has been farmed since 1841. Their farm includes river frontage on the East Ten Mile River and sits in the Delaware River Valley, an area under urgent threat from drilling as its neighbor Pennsylvania sits across the Delaware with drill pads in the watershed waiting for approval.

Andrea says, “In November of 2010, we created a local chapter of Concerned Citizens, Tusten Concerned Citizens, whose primary focus is initiating and establishing stringent Land Use laws into our municipal zoning ordinances that address Heavy Industrial Use, i.e. gas drilling, to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the Town of Tusten. The Town of Tusten is working with Helen and David Slottje and the Tusten Concerned Citizens along with its First Saturday of the Month SkyDog Supper Club will be hosting a Democracy School led by Ben Price later this year.” In addition to organizing the town hall meeting supper club as a place for community engagement, Andrea and her partner Kevin Vertrees have been organizing collaborative art events, Flow Projects that are celebrations of pure water as their community is threatened by drilling and hydraulic fracturing.  

DEC chief defends fracking safeguards

(07/04/11) Governor Cuomo’s environmental commissioner laid out plans for hydrofracking in New York. Joe Martens saidhe believes the controversial method of extracting natural gas can be done safely.Martens detailed the Department of Environmental Conservation’s planned safeguards one day after the agency revealed it planned to allow fracking on privately owned lands in the state. But environmentalists are skeptical.
Karen DeWitt has more.

“Our top priority, obviously, is drinking water,” Martens said. Martens said a number of safeguards will be required to ensure that homeowners drinking wells and public water supplies are not contaminated.

There won’t be any fracking allowed in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, drilling will have to be 500 feet away from other primary aquifers, and there won’t be any surface drilling allowed on state owned lands.  There will be increased monitoring and testing of drilling equipment, and additional concrete liners will be required in wells to prevent the chemicals used in the process from seeping elsewhere. 

Martens said the DEC will make more of an effort to get the gas companies to reveal the exact mix of chemicals they inject into the wells to extract natural gas. Although NYSDEC has released reports listing the type of chemicals injected, many of the companies have claimed the specific chemicals are trade secrets.

According to Democrats of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, hydrofracking’s chemical-laced water could contain carcinogens, endocrine disrupters and hazardous air pollutants.

Commissioner Martens say extra care will be taken to remove that water, known as flow backwater. “This process would be similar to how medical waste is now handled,” Martens said.    

Martens and his staff admit that even with all the precautions, some accidents could conceivable occur and people’s drinking water could be contaminated.

DEC counsel Steve Russo says the process will require baseline tests of private wells before drilling, so that there will be a way to prove whether the gas company contaminated the well.

Russo said if there is harm, the state would not recompense the landowner. “It would be private lawsuit,” Russo said.

The decision to eventually allow drilling was applauded by the state’s largest business lobby. The Business Council’s Heather Briccetti, who was invited to attend the presentation, says fracking could create as many as 37,000 new jobs in New York, in the drilling industry and support services, like restaurants and hotels. 

“We’re very encouraged that they’re moving the ball forward,” said Briccetti, who also said she believes fracking can be “safe.”

Environmentalists, who were left waiting outside in the hallway, are skeptical. Roger Downs, with the Sierra Club, said, “We have to wait to see the details.”

The DEC is setting up an advisory panel, comprised of gas industry officials and environmentalists, including Robert Kennedy, Junior, as well as Deputy Senate Leader Tom Libous, a proponent of fracking.

Wes Gillingham, with Catskill Mountainkeeper, says his group has been working with the administration to try to ensure protections from hydrofracking, but he says the announcement to go ahead with fracking on private property in New York has caused a rift. He points out that there is substantial private land in the Catskill Park, and predicts under this plan, potentially harmful drilling would occur.

“As of now we’re calling for a statewide ban,” said Gillingham.

It will be several more months at least, before any drilling could begin. The DEC intends to further refine its report and release more details later in July. Martens says the public will have the summer to review the document, then there will be comment period, with the final report due sometime late in the year.

The commissioner admits that recent lay offs at the department may affect the speed of the permitting process, and he said he’s going to need more staff to avoid a backlog of permits.

 

DEC working on gas drilling rules Cuomo, not public, to receive document Friday

 
Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM – 06/30/11

The state will not release the final draft gas drilling regulations to the public on Friday — even though Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked for the proposed rules by then. The document he gets won’t be the one that goes out for review.

Regardless of when the document is released, after three years of work, forces on both sides of the contentious issue have already drawn lines in the Marcellus shale, which sits beneath the Southern Tier.

Anti-drillers want fracking banned. They say it will pollute the pristine water of rural places like Sullivan, even though some experts say the gas beneath much of the county isn’t worth drilling.

“Anything short of a prohibition in the Catskills, including the Delaware watershed, is inadequate,” says Ramsay Adams, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper.

Opponents like Adams are bolstered by recent New York Times stories claiming the gas industry overestimated the quantity and profitability of shale gas.

The stories — which Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon calls “misleading at best” — prompted calls for investigations by lawmakers like Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley.

Drilling advocates say they’ve waited long enough for the economic benefits that drilling can bring to poor places like Sullivan. They point to decades of gas-drilling safety in New York state under strict regulations.

“New York’s natural gas industry has an extraordinary safety record and a proven record of environmental protection,” says Deborah Fasser, spokeswoman for the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York.

She points out that the Times stories focus on other parts of the country besides New York, such as Louisiana and Texas.

“What has occurred in other states has not happened here,” she said.

sisrael@th-record.com

“It is not necessarily the final draft form that will be presented for comment,” DEC spokesman Michael Bopp recently said of the document, the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, that will ultimately regulate the controversial horizontal drilling method of “fracking.”

“We will meet the directive Friday,” added DEC spokeswoman Emily De Santis. “The details of the public release are still being worked out.”

Legal challenges expected as state moves toward hydrofracking

link to complete article here:  http://www.theithacajournal.com/article/20110708/NEWS01/107080362/Legal-challenges-expected-state-moves-toward-hydrofracking?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE

ALBANY — During the three-year debate over the merits of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in New York, advocates and opponents haven’t been able to agree on much of anything.

Nearly everyone involved, however, will concede this: As the state moves closer to allowing high-volume hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale, there likely will be lawsuits.

Some groups have already identified issues with the DEC recommendations they believe could be ripe for a challenge, saying the state Department of Environmental Conservation may be preparing to move forward with drilling before legal regulations are officially in place.

“We expect legal challenges,” Joseph Martens, DEC commissioner, said Wednesday. “Obviously, we’re being as careful as we can to make sure that we’re as clear as we can possibly be on all of the points so there’s minimal success of legal challenges.”

The DEC on Friday issued a full, 1,095-page draft of its ongoing environmental review of high-volume fracking, one week after publishing a shorter preliminary version. The technique involves the injection of water, sand and chemicals into gas-rich shale formations — such as the Marcellus Shale below the Southern Tier and parts of the Hudson Valley — to break rock and release natural gas.

The report, which will be updated and put up for public comment in August, includes a set of recommended guidelines for the agency to follow when it begins to issue permits for the gas-drilling technique. Permitting won’t begin, however, until the state finalizes the review, which is expected sometime next year.

In particular, some environmental groups have taken issue with the agency deciding to grant permits as soon as its environmental review is complete.

The recommendations in the DEC report aren’t legally binding, though Martens said his department wouldn’t grant a permit unless the gas company complies with the terms included in the final version.

The agency will move to ratify its recommendations into its oil and gas rules, an administrative process that would give them the same force as law. But Martens said the agency is well within its legal right to issue permits before that process is complete.

Deborah Goldberg, an attorney for non-profit environmental law firm Earthjustice, said she believes if the department agrees that hard-and-fast regulations are required then permits legally have to wait until the rulemaking process is complete.

“In this situation where there’s a lot at stake, if the law is as I understand it we’re not going to let them get away with it,” Goldberg said.

Other groups, such as Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Catskill Mountainkeeper, echoed Goldberg’s concern.

Martens, however, said the agency would be in compliance with the law when it issues permits before the official regulations are final, calling the decision to alter the oil and gas rules “a bit of belt and suspenders.”

“The rulemaking just adds strength to our ability to enforce them and it also reassures both the environmental community and the regulated community what the rules are,” Martens said in an editorial board interview with the Press & Sun-Bulletin.

A spokesman for the state Independent Oil & Gas Association sided with Martens.

“The (agency’s report) will provide the framework to protect the state’s natural resources,” said James Smith, the trade group’s spokesman. “The commissioner is committed … to an inspection and enforcement program that will ensure maximum environmental protection.”

The rulemaking process would require a separate public comment period, which could come after high-volume hydrofracking has already begun in New York.

But its not just environmental groups that may have legal complaints with the DEC report, which recommends a ban on drilling within 4,000 feet of the New York City and Syracuse watershed.

The New York City watershed in the Hudson Valley includes a significant portion of Delaware County. On the border between Delaware and Broome counties, a coalition of landowners signed a $110 million deal in 2008 to lease their 47,000 acres of gas rights to XTO Energy, a company since bought by Exxon Mobil.

About 15 percent of that land falls within the watershed the DEC is proposing to put off limits, according to Sanford Supervisor Dewey Decker, who led the coalition.

Decker said those landowners, who wouldn’t have the chance to collect royalties if drilling is prohibited on or beneath their land, are requesting more information from XTO before they decide how to proceed. A decision on any potential legal challenge hasn’t been made, he said.

Martens said a legal challenge on its proposed oversight model for hydrofracking wouldn’t be unusual. It remains to be seen if any lawsuits could slow the process down, but the commissioner said his agency is working “carefully and prudently” to make sure its bases are covered.

“Almost with everything we do at the agency, we get challenged,” Martens said. “We get challenged every week on regulations that we put out with regard to just about everything, so I wouldn’t think this would be any different.”

Press & Sun-Bulletin staff writer Steve Reilly contributed to this report.

France bans fracking

no fracking

link to complete article here:  http://peoplesworld.org/france-bans-fracking/

The French parliament recently voted to ban fracking – a worrisome technique used to extract gas from rock deposits. The bill passed the National Assembly on June 21, and, on June 30, with a Senate vote of 176 to 151, France became the first country to execute such a ban.

In sharp contrast, New York State is taking steps to allow fracking, opening one of the world’s richest natural gas deposits to drilling, under recommendations by the state environmental agency to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. If approved, the move would lift a moratorium on the controversial technique.

Critics and concerned environmentalists believe that this dangerous operation will endanger groundwater and pollute the air.

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

Cuomo’s predecessor, David Paterson, signed an executive order last year which mandated that fracking not be allowed in the state of New York until the DEC finished a multi-year environmental review.

New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has urged the state to wait until the DEC finishes its assessment of the fracking issue.

The approval of fracking in the state would expose up to 85 percent of the Marcellus Shale to drilling.

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

Meanwhile in France, reported Le Monde, the Socialist Party felt that the bill did not go quite far enough. They said that the bill allowed for problematic loopholes and that it also does not prevent the exploitation of oil shale deposits by methods other than fracking. On the other hand, an earlier version of the bill, which Socialists supported, would have eliminated any kind of development of the deposits.

Regardless, this new development in France is an apparent example of a growing trend – one in which other countries are leaving the U.S. in their dust in terms of progress and environment-friendly actions.

Photo People in Albany, N.Y., stand at the Capitol during a rally against fracking in the Marcellus Shale region. Mike Groil/AP Photos

01/27/2011 07:36 PM

High hopes for ‘Gasland’ at Academy Awards

By: Lori Chung
YNN Your News Now – link to original post here: http://centralny.ynn.com/content/all_news/531551/high-hopes-for–gasland–at-academy-awards/

The documentary “Gasland” is in contention for Hollywood’s highest honor. As Lori Chung reports, there is hope the film’s increased exposure will bring more attention to the fight against hydrofracking.

The documentary “Gasland” is in contention for Hollywood’s highest honor. As Lori Chung reports, there is hope the film’s increased exposure will bring more attention to the fight against hydrofracking.

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HUDSON VALLEY, N.Y. — There are many memorable scenes from the documentary Gasland – an exposé of sorts on the gas drilling industry that’s now up for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.

“To get this far and this kind of recognition, I’m really happy for him,” said Wes Gillingham, the director of the Catskill Mountainkeeper program.

Director Josh Fox screened the film all across the state, taking part in the grassroots movement to fight the gas industry’s attempts to begin fracking the Marcellus Shale, and to protect drinking water sources activists say might be polluted by the process. Gillingham took part in a few panel discussions during several of those screenings.

“There were a lot of people there that were just plain shocked and had a real visceral reaction that we would allow some of these impacts,” said Gillingham.

“In the case of Gasland, once again, you have a movie that tries to point out environmental problems and societal problems,” said film critic Neil Rosen.

Rosen said those are attributes that makes Gasland attractive to Academy voters. While the nomination has already brought more attention to the film and its cause, and Oscar win could bring an anti-fracking message to a worldwide audience.

“Most people don’t watch documentaries unless there’s a lot of press, and a lot of buzz and a lot of word of mouth,” said Rosen.

“More people will rent the DVD, more people will see it and more people will be aware of the impacts of how we get our energy,” said Gillingham.

The gas industry has long disputed the claims in Gasland. Now, America’s Natural Gas Alliance has launched a website titled “The Truth About Gasland” as a challenge to many of the points in the documentary.

But for now, many are just waiting to see if the film will earn a statuette on Oscar night.

INCIDENTS AND DEVELOPMENTS CONTINUE TO PROVE THAT GAS DRILLING ISN’T SAFE. HELP US TAKE ACTION!

The number of places where drilling has poisoned the water, air and land in communities keeps rising and we can expect that as drilling continues, these incidents will go up.  This has not lessoned the pro-drilling forces from pushing for more drilling at every opportunity and with total disregard for the consequences.  Below is a digest of some of the recent events that reinforces our need to be vigilant and active.

PENNSYLVANIA DEP LASHES OUT AT GAS DRILLING COMPANY FOR POLLUTING DRINKING WATER
depIn a public letter to citizens yesterday, Pennsylvania DEP Secretary John Hanger lashed out at Cabot Oil & Gas for denying their responsibility for water contamination in Dimock, PA. He said that there is overwhelming evidence that they are responsible for the gas migration that has caused families to be without a permanent water supply for nearly 2 years.  He continued that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will seek court orders to make Cabot pay for all costs relative to constructing a new 5.5 mile water main to bring drinkable water to Dimock, PA. Cabot’s response has been to launch a public relations campaign and much misinformation concerning who will be party to that solution and who will end up paying for it.  To read Secretary John Hanger’s full statement, click here.

EPA TELLS RESIDENTS OF PAVILLION, WYOMING NOT TO DRINK THEIR WATER
Pavillion MapThe EPA has told the residents of Pavillion, a rural community on the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming, not to drink their water and to use fans and ventilation while bathing or washing clothes to avoid the risk of explosion.  This warning came after the EPA found benzene, metals, naphthalene, phenols, methane and other contaminants in groundwater and area wells. The EPA has identified at least three water wells containing chemicals used in the fracking process, but will not say whether there is a definite connection until they complete their current study of the effects of fracking on water.  While we understand that the EPA cannot make definitive statements until all of their scientific testing is in, this is another clear case of how fracking has poisoned the water in a community.  Click here to join the thousands who have signed our petition asking the DEC not to greenlight gas drilling using hydrofracking until they can review the results of the EPA’s scientific study. Read the petition and signatures here.

ORGANIC FARMER IN PA FILES LAWSUIT STATING THAT DRILLING POLLUTED HIS WATER AND LAND
A Pennsylvania organic tomato farmer, George Zimmerman has filed suit against Atlas Energy

Gas Drilling Site in Hickory, PA
Atlas

Inc.for polluting his soil and water with toxic chemicals used in or released there by hydraulic fracturing.  Water tests near his home found seven potentially carcinogenic chemicals above “screening levels” set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Baseline tests that were done on the property a year before drilling began were “perfect”.  However, tests done in June 2010 found arsenic at 2600 times acceptable levels, benzene at 44 times above limits and naphthalene 5 times above federal standards. These are substances that can’t be made by nature, and yet that is what is now in the ground.  If Zimmerman wins, it would be the first case to prove that hydraulic fracturing causes water contamination.  He said he has invested about $11 million in the estate, which includes a winery and an heirloom-tomato business, but he now just wants to walk away because he believes it has been ruined by gas drilling.  Zimmerman rates his chances of selling it, as “slim to none” because of the proven water contamination.   For more on this story, click here:

Despite this clear and empirical evidence the rush to drill continues.

DEC PROPOSING TO ALLOW FRACKING IN OUR STATE FORESTS
state forests mapThe DEC has said that they are “inclined to consider natural gas developed on State Forests due in part to the fact that it is a cleaner burning energy alternative.”  That is, of course, the rationale that the gas industry uses. While it may be true that the burning of natural gas may produce fewer particulates and other polluting emissions than other fossil fuels, it also causes more strain on the water supply, introduces pollutants into the water supply, chemically poisons land in the case of accidental chemicals spills and more.  Right now commercial mines in State Forests are prohibited. State forests were created precisely in order to protect these lands from development, and that status should be maintained. The DEC is taking public comment on its draft forest management plan until October 29. You can comment by emailing the DEC or mailing them at:
Strategic Plan for State Forest Management
NYS DEC, 625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-4255.”

For a thorough analysis of the this issue read the story Julia Reischel in the Watershed Post

SMALL GAS PIPELINES CAN NOW BE BUILT IN NEW YORK STATE
Despite the fact that gas wells using hydrofracking are not yet approved in New York State, gasPIPELINE
companies can now apply for and get permission to build shale gas pipelines that connect their well pads to larger pipelines because approval of these smaller pipelines is not covered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).  The approval is done by the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) who can approve pipelines that are up to 10 miles in length.  Each pipeline is approved individually, and because PSC is not doing a cumulative impact analysis pipelines are likely to proliferate dangerously and with massive environmental degradation.  On Wednesday October 20th, Mountainkeeper Program Director Wes Gillingham will testify at the PCS public hearing.  The written comment period lasts until October 29th, 2010.  We urge you to click here to submit written comments asking that all pipelines regardless of their length be under DEC approval jurisdiction.

THE DRBC HAS POSTPONED THE RELEASE OF THEIR DRAFT REGULATIONS
The DRBC did not release their draft regulations on drilling for natural gas using fracking last week DRKas they had previously scheduled.  They have now delayed that release until November or December 2010.  While some groups have hailed this as a “victory”, it is unclear whether this delay is good news or bad news for safe gas drilling.  Regardless of their intention, we have to keep up the pressure to require them to wait until the science has been reviewed and analyzed before releasing any regulations.   We need to tell the DRBC Commissioners that it is essential that the cumulative impact study be completed before they issue draft regulations.  Please write a letter to the Commissioners today calling on them to keep a moratorium on drilling in place until the results of the scientific studies can be reviewed and analyzed.  Click here to send a letter to the Commissioners from the Delaware Riverkeeper’s site.