EPA Comment on Hydrofracking in NYS

There has been an important development on proposed gas drilling in the New York portion of the Marcellus Shale. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has formally commented on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS) covering the proposed drilling.

The EPA believes that DEC's environmental impact statement did not analyze "cumulative and indirect impacts" of construction of the infrastructure supporting the drilling process, such as pipes, roads, and the heavy duty trucking in and out of the area.

The EPA also said the dSGEIS did not adequately consider the health impacts of the drilling process, such as the potential risks associated with drilling in the New York City Watershed. The EPA specifically cited the 1997 New York City Watershed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), of which it is a signatory, which granted the City its exemption from needing to filter its surface water supply, provided the water's purity can be insured. The EPA expressed "serious reservations about whether gas drilling in the New York City watershed is consistent with the vision of long-term maintenance of a high quality unfiltered water supply." and went on to say that "[a]s NYSDEC is well aware...the avoidance of filtration saves New York taxpayers billions of dollars that would be needed to construct and operate a water filtration plant should the watershed be compromised." It added that if drilling activities "adversely impacts water quality in the watershed, the city of New York would likely be required to build a filtration treatment system at an expenditure of $10 billion in capital costs and $100 million in annual operating costs. Clearly, it is in all our interests to avoid this scenario." Thus, the EPA recommended “a very cautious approach in all watershed areas.”

More surprising, and in stark contrast to the call of many of the City's politicians, is a section of the EPA's letter expressing concerns about water quality impacts not just in the City's watershed but throughout the state, and offered to partner with NYSDEC on coordinated efforts to protect water sources state-wide."

This statement is noteworthy because only two days before, the Syracuse Post-Standard reported that "[a]s of early December, oil and gas companies had bought drilling rights on almost 100 parcels of land in the Skaneateles watershed, according to Onondaga County property records. Drillers hold at least 150 leases in the Otisco Lake watershed. They’ve secured dozens more in land in the Cortland-Homer-Preble Sole Source Aquifer system, which cuts across Onondaga and Cortland counties."

Skaneateles Lake provides drinking water to more than 200,000 people in Skaneateles, Elbridge, Jordan and Syracuse. The lake is so clean that Syracuse is one of only seven large cities in the United States that don’t need a water filtration plant.


Natalie said…
As I was pushing snow on the driveway, I had a thought. If hydrofracking occurs in my area, will the snow be full of chemicals next winter? My children love playing in the snow and eating it when I am not looking…will hydrofracking mean that I cannot let my children play outside next winter?

Will it mean that the rain will harm my flower and vegetable gardens? Will it mean poisoned fish in Nine Mile Creek and the nearby Fingerlakes? We moved here at the peak of the housing market. We paid more for our house than it is now worth. If our bathing and cooking tap water becomes contaminated; our gardens no longer feasible; and it unhealthy to be outdoors under rain and snow- we will move, and so will many other families with children and grandchildren.
If hydrofracking occurs and contaminates our soil and water, our economy will decline. People will NOT want to move to Syracuse. In fact, people will move away if they can. A good example of this happening is Binghamton. We looked at moving there, and when we read about the pollution that happened several years ago…we decided against it. Tourists will not even look at stopping at our beautiful state parks and lakes….so, if this area becomes contaminated—it will become full of ghost towns, with real estate worth nothing. The state will lose a HUGE AMOUNT of taxpayers’ money, since the land won’t be worth anything and there won’t be any taxpayers living here!! Don’t forget, we pay one of the highest property taxes in the state.

Syracuse, trying to be known as the “Green City” will have to take down its signs. How can we be Green if we allow chemicals into our ground??

WATER, much more important than natural gas—our body is made up mostly of water, but we have numerous other resources than natural gas to use to make heat and energy. Our ecosystem depends on clean rain and snow. Why are we worried about global warming and growing more trees, if we are considering contaminating our ground, water, and atmosphere with potentially harmful chemicals?
WATER EVAPORATES. We learn that in First Grade. It comes back down, by clinging to dust particles as precipitation: snow, rain, sleet. So, if our lakes have chemicals, won’t our rain and snow also contain them?

Syracuse is one of the last cities needing a special kind of filter for the water. There is nothing natural nor healthy about cleaning contaminated water by using more chemicals. We need to remember that it is easier to start with clean water, than to backtrack and find the right combination of chemicals to make “clean” drinking, cooking, and bathing water from contaminated water.

For local economics and statewide economics, it is much more profitable to keep our water clean. The land will not decline in value; the state will not lose its large revenue from our property taxes; Syracuse can grow and rebuild itself into a beautiful historic and GREEN city; and tourists from all over will still come and enjoy our beautiful natural resources, year-round.

There is no beneficial reason for hydrofracking, other than it is quicker and cheaper for the natural gas companies to make money for their corporations. What is going to happen to our area when they are gone? That is the main question to be investigated.