Marcellus Shale gas mining discussed at forum

Panel listens to opinions on both side

NEW PALTZ – Should natural gas be mined from the Marcellus Shale formation, all safeguards against groundwater contamination must be in place, Congressman Maurice Hinchey told a forum in New Paltz Monday evening.

A panel was organized in part by the SUNY New Paltz Environmental Task Force for the purpose of allowing both pro and con opinions to express their arguments regarding gas drilling in the region.

According to Hinchey, a member of the Natural Resources Committee, what’s most important is that the proper standards and regulations are in place to prevent contamination of any population’s drinking water and to ensure that the process of drilling for natural gas will not spawn health problems in the future.

“This kind of drilling really can’t take place within the confines of New York City’s unfiltered drinking water supply,” said James Gennaro of the New York City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee.

“It’s not the appropriate kind of activity that could ever take place safely within an unfiltered water supply.”

Vice President of Chesapeake Energy Scott Rotruck clearly stated that his company would never be drilling in areas affecting the watershed. However, he did speak very highly of the potential for economic benefit that extracting natural gas would bring to the state.

“It can be a tremendous wealth builder for New York,” he said. “New York, right now, produces about five percent of its own natural gas usage. If it could produce more of its own natural gas that would be an economic benefit not only for the drilling and other associated activities but it could lower the cost of energy usage in New York.”

During public comment, questions were raised as to what sort of impact permitting gas drilling in state park areas would have on the preservation of those parks and the tourism they generate.

According to Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Program Director Wes Gillingham, allowing this type of drilling on park land would, in the long term, affect visitors to the area.

“People don’t want to come and hunt and fish next to 24/7 drilling activity.”

State Department of Environmental Conservation Executive Deputy Commissioner Stuart Gruskin assured the audience that, “should this happen in New York State, it is going to happen in an environmentally responsible way.”


New rules on gas drilling?

Full article can be found at this address:

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — Gas drilling issues dominated Thursday’s Planning Committee meeting of the County Legislature.
Planning Commissioner Bill Pammer asked and got legislators to approve a resolution recommending the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) prohibit extracting gas in 100-year and 500-year floodplains.
“This recommendation is made for the purpose of protecting life and property within these areas and… safeguarding the health of the river basin and of the communities who use it from adverse environmental effects on water resources resulting from this activity,” read the resolution.
“We’re talking about a very, very small land area,” Pammer said – mostly around the Delaware River and its major tributaries.
He passed around a list of some of the affected towns. Delaware and Callicoon had the least amount of floodplain areas (two percent), while Lumberland had the most (8.6 percent).
Another resolution, again approved unanimously by committee members, requested the State Legislature to authorize local governments to demand financial security and indemnification pertaining to road damage from trucks hauling materials to and from drill sites.
Though the state already gives local governments latitude in determining such payments, they have been challenged in court.
Plus, this resolution asks the state to clarify that such requirements do not constitute “impact” fees, leaving room for municipalities to charge that separately (as is the case with the proposed Indian casinos).
And, of course, the county sent another resolution to the state asking it to give local governments the same oversight they normally have with any other kind of development within their borders. Currently, municipalities only have control over local roads and taxes.
However, Pammer may have found a way for the county to at least get a glimpse of the site plan – through the requirement that each wellpad have a 911 address for emergency response procedures.
Driveways on county roads require permits from the county, and while the county can’t demand alterations to the site plan, it can require the plan’s submission to gain the permit.
Legislator Leni Binder said she’d favor such a requirement as long as it didn’t present “an undue burden of expense” on the applicant, which Pammer promised it would not.
In fact, Division of Public Works Commissioner Bob Meyer said it would only be a “step above” the sketch already required for a permit.
Pammer said he’d research the issue more before presenting it to legislators for a vote.
Also being researched is the development of a local law to prohibit seismic testing on county roads.
“Thumper trucks,” as they are known, have visited the county before, searching for solid and liquid minerals underneath the ground by sending sound vibrations through the soil and rock.
The concern of the county, however, isn’t so much the noise but the extraction of data from below private property, as the seismic tests measure information gathered from an area larger than just underneath the truck itself.
Legislator Ron Hiatt was the only one hesitant to endorse such a law, but Pammer said he’d do more investigating before bringing it back to the Legislature – including getting townships to sign on to such an initiative to ensure town roads are treated in the same manner as county routes.

NYDEC Draft Scope Natural Gas Drilling (PDF) Download, October 5, 2008


(Download the PDF from the link above)

Draft Scope for Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program

Well Permit Issuance for Horizontal Drilling and High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing to Develop the Marcellus Shale and Other Low-Permeability Gas Reservoirs

Draft Scope (PDF, 404 KB)

The Department is accepting written comments on this draft scope through the close of business on December 15, 2008. A schedule of public meetings in the Southern Tier and Catskills to receive verbal comments will be announced shortly.

Submit comments to: Attn: Scope Comments, Bureau of Oil & Gas Regulation, NYSDEC Division of Mineral Resources, 625 Broadway – Third Floor, Albany, NY 12233-6500

or email to: with “Scope Comments” as the Subject

Executive Summary

The Department of Environmental Conservation is responsible for regulating the development and production of oil and gas resources in New York State. Natural gas exploration and production companies, and mineral rights owners, are interested in developing a potentially significant gas resource in the Marcellus Shale through the use of horizontal drilling and a hydraulic fracturing technique known as “slick water fracturing.” This technique requires large volumes of water. The Department has identified the action of well permit issuance when high-volume hydraulic fracturing is proposed as one which requires further review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”). This draft scope and the public meetings where it will be discussed are the first steps in that process.

The Department evaluated its oil and gas regulatory program through development of a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“GEIS”) which was finalized in 1992 and which sets parameters that are applicable statewide for SEQRA review of gas well permitting. This draft scope describes the topics related to well permit issuance for high-volume hydraulic fracturing that the Department has identified for review in a draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“dSGEIS”). Written and verbal comments from all interested parties will be considered in the preparation of a Final Scope, and then the dSGEIS will be released for additional public review and comment. The final SGEIS, to be prepared after consideration of comments received on the draft, will set additional parameters for SEQRA review. The Department will then issue well permits for gas well development using high-volume hydraulic fracturing in accordance with both the GEIS and the SGEIS.

Aspects of high-volume hydraulic fracturing identified in this draft scope for further review include the potential impacts of (1) water withdrawals, (2) transportation of water to the site, (3) the use of additives in the water to enhance the hydraulic fracturing process, (4) space and facilities required at the well site to ensure proper handling of water and additives, and (5) removal of spent fracturing fluid from the well site and its ultimate disposition. Noise, visual and air quality considerations are noted, along with the potential for cumulative and community impacts. The well permitting process is described, and regulatory coordination with other jurisdictional agencies and local governments are also discussed.

Narrative background and context is included in this document solely for the purpose of assisting the reader in evaluating the draft scope, is based upon the Department’s experience implementing the GEIS and regulating oil and gas drilling in New York State, and is for reference only. Nothing contained in this draft scope is intended, nor should it be construed, as stating a position with respect to any matters that will ultimately be addressed in the SGEIS. In order to avoid duplication, and to ensure that the SGEIS serves to complement the GEIS, interested persons are urged to carefully review the GEIS in connection with the preparation of any comments. Note that the GEIS also includes a glossary of technical terms.

Natural gas rush will come at expense of NYC’s water

Natural gas rush will come at expense of NYC’s water

Monday, September 22nd 2008, 6:18 PM

Be Our Guest: James Gennaro, councilman

In the recent oil rush film “There Will Be Blood,” early 20th century speculators go door to door and offer struggling landowners money in exchange for the right to drill through the ground and reap the riches that flow underneath.

About 100 miles north of New York City, in the watershed from which 9 million New Yorkers get their drinking water, a similar scene is being played out right now. As a result of a new law recently passed by the state Legislature that will greatly facilitate natural gas drilling upstate, energy companies are paying landowners princely sums for leases allowing them to drill for gas almost 2 miles underground using an environmentally problematic technique called “hydraulic fracturing.”

In the film version of this story, the prospecting enriches everyone involved, but not without terrible environmental and human tolls from contamination. In the real-life version of this story, environmental experts and I warn of the risks that hydraulic fracturing poses for the New York City drinking water supply. As a geologist, environmental scientist and public policymaker who has been deeply involved in efforts to preserve and enhance the city’s drinking water quality for almost 20 years, I believe that this activity will result in the degradation of the water quality in the city’s upstate reservoirs and ultimately lead to city residents being forced to pay in excess of $10 billion for a water filtration plant to clean up the mess.

We cannot allow this to happen. Not to ourselves, and not to our children. With state legislation already passed in stealth, it is now up to the public and the media – and the power of its collective voices – to make sure a bad state law doesn’t pollute New York City’s drinking water supply and cost city taxpayers billions of dollars in the process.

The law in question, S8169A, will help expand drilling prospects greatly across upstate New York‘s Marcellus Shale underground rock formation, including areas within New York City’s drinking water supply watershed. This law could have and should have excluded the area within the city’s drinking water supply, but it didn’t. At a public hearing that I chaired in City Hall on Sept. 10, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis would not commit to formally excluding our drinking water supply from drilling, but that may change if enough New Yorkers stand up and join me in my protest.

Hydraulic fracturing has contaminated water supplies in other states, including Wyoming and New Mexico. The method, which for each well forces millions of gallons of water, sand and industrial chemicals through earth as deep as 9,000 feet underground, has been decried for its impact on water supplies by numerous environmental groups, including the League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Catskill Mountainkeeper and Earthwatch’s Oil and Gas Accountability Project.

There are abundant areas upstate outside of the city’s watershed that overlay the Marcellus Shale where drilling could conceivably proceed with the proper environmental safeguards. But not in our water supply. Never in our water supply. Let’s not let the allure of the short-term economic gain from drilling blind us to the fact that if this is allowed in our water supply, the economic benefits will pale in comparison to degraded reservoirs and a prohibitively expensive filtration plant we wouldn’t otherwise need.

Everyone knows that water and oil don’t mix. Neither do water and natural gas.

James Gennaro is chairman of the New York City Council‘s Committee on Environmental Protection.’It is now up to the public and the media.’