The Petition to Stop Gas Drilling in New York State

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Do you agree with Assemblymember Jim Brennan and his proposed legislation (A.11527)-- that there should be "a two-year moratorium on the issuance of permits for the drilling of new gas wells" across the state-- and that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation should study the need for environmental protection related to the drilling of oil and gas, as this bill also calls for?

If you do, sign on to this petition, pass it along to all you know, and contact our Governor and state legislature at (877) 255-9417; over the past week a number of prominent environmentalists in our region have contacted us looking for assistance on this issue; let's pull together as a region to stop gas drilling for now (at least with a two-year moratorium)-- until all the questions and issues raised below can be fully addressed and answered (see www.assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A11527).

Dutchess County Legislature Environmental Committee Chair Joel Tyner
County Legislator (Clinton/Rhinebeck)
Real Majority Project
324 Browns Pond Road
Staatsburg, NY 12580
[email protected]
(845) 876-2488

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From CatskillCitizens.org (Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy)...

Recently State Senator John Bonacic was quoted as saying that theres never been an environmental
accident during gas drilling in New York State. Since then his remark has been repeated to suggest that theres no need for any of us to even think about environmental issues. Not true. The fact is there have been serious accidents in New York State- home wells have been ruined and fields have been contaminated by toxic spills from open waste pits. Environmental concerns and safety must be first and foremost as gas extraction moves forward.

In the last few months many of us have become aware that big energy companies have begun to lease our land and plan to drill for the natural gas that's trapped in underground shale beds. The Delaware River Basin is thought to be rich in natural gas deposits, and the scale of the projected drilling operations is gigantic.

While gas extraction may bring important economic benefits to regional landowners, poorly regulated gas extraction could pose significant risks to our environment and our health as well as to other important sectors of our economy.

Looking around the country it's apparent that all too often gas drilling has left a trail of destruction in it's wake. This has happened in New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas; and it's happened in Alabama, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

We believe that New York can, and must, do better. We must learn how to acquire the energy resources we need, while preserving our environment and quality of life that is so important to us all. If we do this right, New York can become model of responsible resource management.

Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy is a newly formed grassroots organization that will give area residents a voice in decisions that will affect the quality of our lives and our environment for many years to come. We are determined to see this valuable natural resource is exploited in a safe and responsible way.

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From Red Hook's George Quasha ([email protected]), passed along to him from a friend...

[much of the information below from CatskillMountainKeeper.org]

As some of you may know, there is a huge environmentally hazardous land grab going on in the Catskills since the discovery of natural gas in the layer of shale in the region. This includes the beautiful and pristine area which contains vital NYC reservoir drinking water sources and agricultural production and recreational lands. The gas industry is notoriously noxious and polluting and the DEC (like the DOB here in the city) is understaffed and totally ill equipped to deal with what will soon become a huge load. There has been no environmental impact study and there are very few environmental protections in place-- thanks to a 2005 law courtesy of Vice President Dick Cheney and company. There are also no protections for property owners adjacent to land where owners lease to gas companies for a share in the profits. The entire industry is a nightmare and will affect all of our drinking water, local agriculture and food production, recreational facilities etc. A few, including lawyers will make quick and large profits, but at what cost?

A bill has just been passed in both the State Senate and the State Assembly that is going to just fast track this onslaught before safeguards are in place to protect the environment or local communities. There needs to be a moratorium on drilling until environmental impact statements have been thoroughly done and the DEC is ready to enforce safeguards. I urge you to email, call, and write Gov. Paterson requesting that he not sign bill A.10526A as it is. The bill makes things easier on the DEC, decreases setbacks for wells, lets them be done closer together and eliminates some public hearings. It seems to only facilitate things for the gas industry and really does little to protect the public especially owners of property adjacent to areas where wells will be drilled. Read the full bill at Catskillmountainkeeper.org/node/559 and at www.assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A10526&sh=t and an astute summary of whats at issue is at:
Catskillmountainkeeper.org/node/518.

The bill lessens the setbacks and speeds up the permitting process for oil companies, who will no longer have to endure hearings before an administrative law judge and the public to get special use permits. In some ways, the existing law is probably better right now because it slows the process down a bit," said Wes Gillingham, program director for the Catskill Mountainkeeper environmental group. "The new law opens up the opportunity for oil companies to move at a faster pace." Sounds a bit like self certification to me and we know how well that has worked! Wes Gillingham's remark re "the existing law" refers to that which has now been superseded (as the new law has now been passed but not signed by the Governor since he was quoted.

This has just been rushed through before the issue has really come on the publics radar for full discussion of what it all means-- and before the possibility of a Democratic President and Congress coming on board after the November election which could change the energy industrys exemption from environmental oversight. To quote a local landowner's comment-- Laws like the one that is now being passed have no right to exist and probably would not if our people were allowed to be heard. Tell that to Governor Paterson and Senators Clinton and Schumer, Congressmembers, members of the State Senate and Assembly and anyone else you can think of. Tell them and your state Senator and State Assemblymen to pass Bill # A11527 sponsored by Assemblyman Brennan (hes the one who has been calling strongly and effectively for taking the DOB and the construction industry to task in NYC). This bill calls for a two-year moratorium on the issuance of permits for the drilling of new wells; see www.assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A11527&sh=t.

Actions to take:

1. Send this information to any contacts you have. Let folks know about this issue. The results of large scale gas drilling could be tragic.

2. Most important at the moment- contact Gov. Paterson and ask him to veto Bill #A10526A and support at least a two-year moratorium and thorough environmental impact studies as well as beefing up protections for the environment and communities affected including NYCs water supply which will be endangered. The governors contact information for email is:
http://www.state.ny.us/governor/contact/index.html.

His address for regular mail is: Governor David A. Paterson State Capitol Albany, NY 12224
[518-474-8390-- also call!].

3. Contact State Assembly members and ask them to support Brennans Bill-- #A11527:
www.assembly.state.ny.us/mem.

4. Contact state Senators-- to find yours go to:
www.senate.state.ny.us/senatehomepage.nsf/senators?OpenForm.

5. Contact our Senators and Congressmen (at 800-828-0498-- Rep. Maurice Hinchey represents some of the area that will be affected and has a strong environmental record but contact yours too).

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From CatskillMountainKeeper.org/node/290...

The Marcellus Shale America's Next Super Giant

Down in Texas the big gas companies are talking about northeast Pennsylvania and New York as the place to be.The Catskills and the Delaware River Valley sit on top of Marcellus Shale.Marcellus Shale lies under much of northern Appalachia 6,000 to 8,000 feet below the surface; the pores in the shale contain large quantities of natural gas.The shale layer becomes thicker from west to east beginning at about 50 feet in Ohio to more than 100 feet thick in central PA and NY.Geologists have known about the gas here for years but now with the new technologies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, recovering the gas is now the big new "Shale Play" as the industry refers to it.We are seeing the "land men" knocking on doors to obtain gas leases for various companies, with Chesapeake leading the charge in our area (mostly the Delaware River Valley in PA, Sullivan and Delaware counties).Community groups are forming on both sides of the issue from landowner associations to better negotiate a lease to groups fighting drilling altogether.

What does this all mean to the average resident?It means that landowners, towns, counties and regional organizations have a very short time to come up to speed with all the issues involved with gas exploration.As a new "shale play" we don't have a history in this particular formation but we certainly have a history with gas exploration and the complexity of the issues involved.Here are a few topics we all need to look closer at:

Hydraulic Fracturing: "Fracking as it is called within the industry involves injecting water, sand and special chemicals into the shale layer at extremely high pressure.This then separates the pores in the rock and the sand particles "hold" the cracks open so the gas can flow back to the drill bore.Some of the injected fluids remain trapped underground.A number of these fluids qualify as hazardous materials and carcinogens, and are toxic enough to contaminate groundwater resources.There are cases in the U.S. where hydraulic fracturing is the suspected source of impaired or polluted drinking water.In Alabama, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, incidents have been recorded by people who have gas wells near their homes.They have reported changes in water quality or quantity following fracturing operations.Most of these incidences involve coal-bed methane production, which is a much shallower drilling process, but it highlights how poorly the gas companies are protecting the communities they are working in.

Regulatory Issues:After decades of deal making between government and the industry it has resulted in exemptions for the oil and gas companies from protections in the clean water act, the environmental response, compensation, and liability act (CERCLA also known as the Superfund law), the resource Conservation and recovery act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Also, the gas industry is not covered by public right to know provisions, which mean companies can withhold information about the chemicals they use in the "fracking process.

Pollution:The pollution from oil and gas exploration and production has involved known carcinogens, reproductive toxicants, and other toxic chemicals like arsenic, hydrogen sulfide, mercury and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including benzene and xylene.

Fragmentation:The Catskills and adjacent lands in Pennsylvania contain some of the largest contiguous forest blocks east of the Mississippi River. This area acts as an important species corridor between the Catskill Park, the Shawangunk Ridge, the Hudson Highlands and the Poconos.There are multiple species of either endangered or special concern and indicator species of healthy vibrant habitat found here. The number of roads and increased heavy truck traffic and cleared swaths for pipelines to connect the drilling pads to the millennium pipeline will dissect these important forest blocks and corridor.

Air and Noise Pollution: Drilling for gas is a highly industrial undertaking which includes numerous truckloads of equipment, chemicals, sand and water along with generators, pumps, drilling rigs and hoists.All of which are running at all hours of the day producing noise and exhaust fumes. When gas is found there can be a release of the various gases in the formation.

Normally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORMS):NORMS are found in many geological formations and can be brought to the surface on drilling equipment and in fluids. Once at the surface it can accumulate as sediments in holding tanks and ponds. This is an issue in the Barnett Shale, which are not the same rock. However, NORMS occur in NY at higher levels than in PA and have not been tested in the eastern part of the state.

Development:Increased development in other rural areas of the country where there are productive Gas fields has resulted in large influxes of industry workers which will have multiple impacts to the respective communities.

There are some excellent web sites out there covering these issues more in depth such as The Oil and Gas accountability project By Earthworks www.ogap.org.A very important document they have produced is Oil and Gas at Your Door? A landowners guide to oil and gas development.

Another great document put out by the Natural Resources Defense Council is: NRDC Natural Gas Drilling Fact Sheet: Drillng Down: Protecting Western Communities from the Health and Environmental Effects of Oil and Gas Production. (October, 2007 PDF)

Most of the National groups have information on this topic especially concerning public land and the Sierra Club's Atlantic Chapter and Trout Unlimited are actively involved in the issue here in the Catskills.

There are many community groups throughout the country faced with gas drilling that have websites. Here are two for example that offer valuable information; FWCANDO.ORG from Fort Worth Texas, which is in the Barnett shale Similar to Marcellus and Damascus Citizens for Sustainabilityat www.DamascusCitizens.org an organization based in Damascus PA dedicated to "preventing the dire effects of gas well drilling, such as polluted drinking water, carcinogens in the farmland and food chain, torn-up roads, risk of gas fires, plummeting real estate values, and screeching noise polution."

In the Catskills there are a number of groups that are now working on the gas drilling issue.
Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy is a newly formed grassroots organization specifically focused on the gas drilling issue and keep a calendar of important events related to drilling of the Catskills.
The Delaware Riverkeeper and the Hudson Riverkeeper are closely monitoring and informing the public about gas drilling and it's potential impacts on there respective wathersheds.

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From DamascusCitizens.org...

Working to Protect Our Community and Our Home-- and The Upper Delaware River Basin

We are working very hard to prevent the dire effects of gas well drilling in our township and in the Upper Delaware River Basin, including Wayne County, PA and Sullivan County, NY. Overwhelming evidence now exists that the type of gas drilling proposed for our area causes contaminated drinking water, carcinogens in the farmland and food chain, torn-up roads, risk of explosions, toxic air pollution, plummeting real estate values, and screeching noise polution.

Each deep gas well uses millions of gallons of water, sand, 171 products, and 245 chemicals (some secret & toxic). Halliburton's gas well drilling process, "hydraulic-fracturing" - is now exempt from the "Safe Drinking Water Act," "The Clean Water Act," "The Clean Air Act," "The Right-to-Know-Act", and other importnt protections. The NRDC has released a comprehansive report about this issue.

For the last two years, companies such as Equitable Productions, Noble Energy, Cabot Oil and Gas, Chief Oil and Gas, Southwestern Energy, Exco/North Coast, and Chesapeake Appalachia have sent free-lance contractors to approach landowners in the Upper Delaware River Basin - the source of pure-water for 17 million people. These contractors have asked landowners to sign leases that will allow for gas well drilling on their land.

Gas drilling is not a benign activity-- besides temporary disruptions there are many possible irreversible damages to water, land, wildlife, quality of life, human health, and property values. It took only five years for Fort Worth, Texas-- sitting on the same geologic strata as here and dealing with the same gas companies-- to be transformed from one of the most livable cities in the country into a beleaguered industrial zone. Residents have suffered from gas fumes, piercing noise pollution and tainted water wells. The gas companies have left behind unsightly and dangerous sites that the municipality can ill-afford to correct. Such problems can result in tax increases.

In a recent meeting with the PA Department of Environmental Protection we learned that approximately 5000 to 7000 wells are projected by these companies for the Upper Delaware River Basin. One well requires 3 to 5 million gallons of water in the initial drilling, and up to that much each time the well undergoes the hydraulic fracturing process used to access the gas. This water is allowed to be taken from our streams, lakes, rivers, and aquifers. It is left polluted by the chemicals used in the drilling and fracturing. Some of this water leaches into the drinking water aquifers and surface waters. Some of this water is brought up and discarded, resulting in huge trucks damaging our roads or, as allowed by the DEP, put into the topsoil with the waste from the drilling. Currently, the DEP does not have sufficient staff to provide oversight on such drilling experiments, and communities will be left to their own devices and budgets to deal with the problems that will inevitably arise.

Compensation for this from the private companies is at most minimal. We know that farmers in our areas are hurting financially. But we also know that they love their land. There has been a great deal of misinformation distributed about gas well drilling. Please help us to protect your drinking water and land and properties. Read the facts; talk to your neighbors; donate.

Did you know The Delaware River Watershed provides drinking water to over 17 million people and supports a world-class trout fishery and bald eagles?

Gas Drilling is not a benign activity. Besides temporary disruptions there are many possible irreversible damages to the water, quality and quantity, the land, wildlife, quality of life, property values. We must take the responsibility to decide what we want our community and our environment to be like in five years. That is the length of time it took Fort Worth, Texas, -sitting on the same geologic strata as here and dealing with the same gas companies as are here - to be transformed from one of the most livable cities in the country into a beleaguered industrial zone.

The reason the companies want to lease land is that the lease gives them the right to pollute and they then leave. They leave the pollution behind. There is much documentation of water and surface pollution and other harms done by the drilling and exploration activities.

We can and must assert our rights of self governance to take the power of decision for ourselves. The State of Pennsylvania in Article 1, Section 27 of the State Constitution says that The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.

The 2005 Energy Act provided the oil and gas industry with numerous exemptions from provisions of federal laws intended to protect human health and the environment. Below is a comprehensive NRDC Report: http://www.nrdc.org/land/use/down/contents.asp.
Delaware River Basin Map: http://www.state.nj.us/drbc/maps/drb_map2.htm

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From CatskillMountainKeeper.org/node/290...

The effects of drilling on the Catskill environment have the potential to be devastating. Carcinogens that accompany deep drilling also have the ability to penetrate our water supply-- a water supply that provides drinking water to NYC through aqueducts connected to the Catskill Watersheds. Perhaps the most devastating effects of drilling will be the endangerment of the natural beauty of this region, and the carbon emissions that come with the further use of fossil fuels:

Current Research: What Damascus Citizens and Friends have discovered...

23-Minute Radio Interview: www.prx.org/pieces/20015

What are the health hazards of gas drilling? Dr. Theo Colborn, author of Our Stolen Future discusses the health impacts to humans, wildlife and domestic animals in areas of gas drilling. She shares with your listeners the truth behind the industry claim that they only use sand, water and soap in the drilling process. She exposes the chemicals they actually use and the extreme heath dangers of these chemicals. Research has documented that 91\% of these chemicals are hazardous to health as result of being skin and sensory organ toxicants, respiratory toxicants, gastrointestinal and liver toxicants, neurotoxicants, kidney toxicants, cardiovascular and blood toxicants, immunotoxicants, carcinogens, reproductive toxicants, wildlife toxicants, developmental toxicants and endocrine disruptors. Historically, these chemicals have not been properly handled, causing air and ground water pollution. As air and water are mobile-- this affects us all.

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From Ron Hine of Damascus, Pennsylvania...

"During a 5-year period in Colorado, the oil & gas industry reported 1,435 spills in excess of 5 barrels. The spilled products included crude oil, produced water, diesel fuel, glycol, lubricating oil, hydraulic fracturing fluids, drilling muds and natural gas leaks. 23\% of these spills contaminated water sources. The New Mexico Oil Conservation Division has detected and documented 743 incidents of groundwater contamination from oil and gas facilities across the state.

The nonprofit group Endocrine Disruption Exchange analyzed 171 products and 245 chemicals used in the gas drilling process in Colorado. They found 92\% of the products had health effects covering a vast range of symptoms and disorders.

Hydrogen sulfide, a deadly gas, is found at many gas sites throughout New Mexico.
In the San Juan Basin alone, there are approximately 375 wells that contain hydrogen sulfide.

Naturally occurring radioactive material can travel up a well hole with gas and its byproducts. Decontamination specialists have disposed of more than 378,696 barrels of this radioactive waste in Texas since 1996.

On June 7, 2006, employees at Halliburton Energy Services in Farmington, New Mexicospilled 30 to 60 gallons from a 600 gallon tank of acid. This chemical was used for the hydraulic fracturing of gas wells. The spill sent a toxic cloud into the neighboring community resulting in a mass evacuation of 200 residents.

There are a number of cases in the U.S. where hydraulic fracturing is the prime suspect in incidences of impaired or polluted drinking water. These cases have been reported in Alabama, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, West Virginia, Texas, Arkansas, Pennsylvania and other states. Residents have reported changes in water quality or quantity following fracturing operations of gas wells near their homes.

Laura Amos and her family lived in Garfield County, Colorado. In May 2001 while fracturing four wells on their neighbors' property, the gas well operator "blew up" their water well. Fracturing opened an hydrogeological connection between their water well and the gas well. "Immediately our water turned gray, had a horrible smell, and bubbled like 7-Up," she writes. "Tests of our water showed 14 milligrams per liter of methane. . . In the spring of 2003 I became very ill. I spent months in doctors' offices and hospitals. I was eventually diagnosed with . . . a very rare condition of a tumor in my adrenal gland." Although the gas company repeatedly denied it, evidence later surfaced that a fracking fluid, 2-BE had been used for the gas drilling. 2-BE can cause a long list of health problems including tumors of the adrenal gland.

"After tons of problems, mistakes, spills and damages, they finally finished the well and pipeline yesterday," an Arkansas landowner, James Weaver, wrote. "My land is a mess. My artesian water well is contaminated. My ponds are still full of their chemicals. My creek is flowing with their chemicals from the west side to the east and down into the City Lake."

Dr. Theo Colborn, the author of Our Stolen Future, describes the gas-drilling process as follows: Fracturing of wells is the practice in which millions of gallons of fluids are injected underground, creating a mini-earthquake that facilitates the release of natural gas. The gas industry claims that 70\% of the material it injects underground is retrieved. While the fate of the remaining 30\% is unknown, the recovered product is placed in holding pits on the surface and allowed to evaporate. This results in many highly toxic chemicals being released into the air, as well as being dispersed into local surface waters. The condensed residues remaining in the pits are taken off-site and dealt with in two ways: (1) They can be re-injected in the ground posing concerns for aquifers, or (2) they can be "land farmed" by which they are incorporated into the soil through tilling. Land farming can release toxic chemicals to the air via volatile substances and dusts, or result in accumulation of mixtures of toxic metals in the soil.

If allowed here in Wayne County, this fracturing process would extend a mile or more below the earth's surface into the Marcellus Shale bed. This ancient rock formation extends across the entire length of PA to Wayne County and into Sullivan County as well. Similar beds of shale exist in Arkansas and in Texas where the same deep-bed fracturing process has been underway for many years. Many of these tales of environmental devastation, of few of which are related here, emanate from these communities where the same gas drilling procedures proposed for Wayne County has been taking place.

If we think our government is going to protect us, it is unlikely to happen given the current state of government regulations which have been either gutted or rewritten to benefit the gas industry. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations who will live on this beautiful land and depend on its air and water, to protect against this harm that people have suffered elsewhere due to irresponsible, under-regulated gas drilling."