Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why NYS Must Ban Fracking

Why NYS won't be protected if fracking takes place:

On July 8, 2011, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released its draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Study (dSGEIS)—the proposed permitting conditions for the hydraulic fracturing of horizontal wells in New York State.

While the dSGEIS may appear at first glance to be a significant improvement over the previous document (released by the DEC in 2009), the Catskill Mountainkeeper's investigation into the text's fine print has identified massive deficiencies. These include failing to present a mitigation plan for the inevitable public health impacts associated with fracking, and a blatant disregard to adequate drinking water protections.

Additionally, this document presents the industry with a clear road map for fracking in the Catskill Park, the Delaware River Watershed, and throughout the Southern Tier of New York.

The Handling of Toxic Wastewater Still a Major Problem
The plan by the DEC to track the solid and liquid wastes that are generated in connection with fracking sounds positive until you read that they are leaving the tracking of these wastes up to gas industry operators. We’ve all seen what happens when the industry is asked to police itself. Even more upsetting is that the DEC is still not classifying some of the waste that normally qualifies as hazardous, as hazardous, meaning that fracking waste could be sent to treatment facilities that are unable to properly treat it.

Protection of Primary Aquifers is only for a Limited Time
The DEC is proposing to prohibit fracking in primary aquifers that serve as public drinking water supplies but this “prohibition” is only limited to a couple of years after which the state could “reconsider” the bans. In addition, the DEC does not lay out the conditions under which “reconsideration” would be reviewed.

Bans on Drilling in State-Owned Land Inadequate
The ban on drilling in state-owned lands looks good until you read that while the state will prohibit well pads above ground they will allow drilling under these same lands.

Cumulative Impact Requirements Incomplete
References to how an area would be affected by the cumulative impact of many, many wells is only addressed for some aspects of that cumulative impact but the DEC has failed to lay out a comprehensive, focused plan to review and analyze the consequences of a full build out.

Regional Areas of Geological Risk Not Protected
The DEC has not addressed fracking in areas of special geological risk, such as those with fault lines that are potential pathways for the upward gradient of contaminants into aquifers because they claim that contaminants can’t rise into aquifers. However, independent scientific studies have proven that upward migration of contaminants is not only possible, but also likely. The DEC based their assertion on industry studies that looked at just 5 days in the fracking process.

Open Waste Pits Not Outlawed
The DEC has sidestepped banning deplorable open waste pits because they say that the gas industry has asserted that they are unlikely to use open pits for the storage of wastewater. Instead of prohibiting open pits out right, which should be done, they have proposed a system where a lone DEC employee could grant approval without doing an individual environmental impact study.

So what’s next?
We are waiting for the dates to be released for the public hearings that the DEC will schedule to collect comments on their plan.
Getting a large turnout to these hearings is critical—we will let you know as soon as we know the dates and locations of these meetings and we urge you to plan to be there.

Note: This has been excerpted from a press release by the Catskill Mountainkeeper.

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