Water is our most Precious Resource

Friday, October 30, 2009

The First Public Hearing on HydroFracking in NY State

I just returned from a very long public hearing on the New York State DEC Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Study, ("The Draft") regarding drilling for natural gas using the HydroFracking method in New York State.

This was the first public hearing, sponsored by the DEC, as a forum for residents of Sullivan county, NY and nearby counties to express their concerns about the impending drilling.

A vast majority of speakers asked for the DEC to extend it's period for public comment by another 120 days, and to add more public hearings.

It should be noted that as this drilling goes forward, it will be the single largest industrialisation of any region in New York State, ever. There will be over 10,000 wells dug, and the area will be forever changed as the "view-shed" is destroyed, streams, aquifers and the ecosystem are contaminated, and our air is polluted by neurotoxins and "mutagens".

The theater at Sullivan County Community College was packed to the gills with concerned citizens. The first who spoke were highway superintendents, commenting that their tiny highway budgets cannot even begin to deal with the kind of destruction the millions of truckloads will bring. In the Draft, there is no mention about road maintenance whatsoever.

There were a few citizens who spoke out in favor of drilling, but mostly said that they want to make sure that it's safe. Representatives of Chesapeake Energy, New York State Oil and Gas Exploration Initiative and other oil/gas interests commented on how extensive their experience is in drilling for natural gas in New York. However, they do not distinguish between the kind of drilling that is done in Chautauqua County, for instance, where the waste-water is nothing more than salt water, and Sullivan County, where the drilling is much deeper and they use a cocktail of over 200 deadly toxins, including benzene, cyanide and radioactive elements.

But overwhelmingly, citizens, public officials from Sullivan county and land steward organizations stepped forward in eloquent, intelligent discourse about how HydroFracking, in its current technology, is prone to accidents (as evidenced by every state in the country who has experienced it), and a single accident can cause horrific, irreversible damage to the water supply and ecosystem.

They spoke about how the Draft doesn't address the most important issue, called "Cumulative Impact". It means, in effect, they are not discussing the short or long-term environmental impact of HydroFracking, or the health and safety issues for the workers and the residents.

The Director of Sullivan County's Department of Public Health spoke. Hers is a state agency which has had to cut all non-mandated personnel. This agency is supposed to be responsible for inspecting all the wells, but there will be no personnel to do that. This agency is supposed to take care of the health of Sullivan county residents, but the problems associated with HydroFracking are too immense to deal with: ie, the chemicals used in the process include carcinogens, neurotoxins and "mutagens" which will cause a rash of diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Leukemia, Parkinsons, Brain Tumors, and Lupus. Our hospitals will not be able to handle these problems.

A representative from the Sullivan County Legislature spoke about the "unprecedented and profound effect" HydroFracking would have on our infrastructure, our aquifers and the cumulative impact on the health of county residents.

Others spoke about how there was no mention of cleanup measures in case of an accident in the Draft; there is no mention of what Chesapeake will do with the incredibly toxic wastewater.

One of the major points of the night was that under a 1992 ruling, the Oil and Gas Industry are EXEMPT from the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Air Acts, which means that in case of contamination, there is no culpability.

To this end, The Frack Act (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2009/06/frack_attack.html) was introduced into national legislation this summer, and if passed would force oil and gas companies to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. It would also force them to list what chemicals they are using in the process. It is believed that the rush for Chesapeake to begin its drilling in New York is to get in and drilling before the possibility of this bill passing.

There was mention about the noise factor - for the 21 days it takes to drill a well, anyone nearby will experience noise at 86 decibals, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. That is like standing next to a food blender. And that's just the drilling, not even mentioning the actual HydroFracking process. And, not mentioning the constant rumble of huge diesel trucks in and out.

In addition to flooding the earth with 202 incredible toxic chemicals, Fracking can cause explosions, release methane into water supplies (imagine your tap water coming out flaming), and can release radon, a highly toxic - and invisible - carcinogen into ground water supplies. If your water is contaminated, you will not be able to bathe in it, do laundry, feed your pets or water your lawn, much less drink it.

A professor from Cornell recently reported that 5% of the Fracking fluid is a "mutagen" that is USED TO INDUCE CANCER IN LABORATORY ANIMALS. It is also reported that 50% of the chemicals used in the process cause brain and nerve damage, as reversed engineered from Pennsylvania HydroFracking wastewater.

Many people spoke about how the natural gas will be used up in 20 or 30 years, at which point the fresh water will be ancient history.

It's obvious that Chesapeake is pushing for the drilling to move forward very fast, at a time when New York State is in a dire financial situation. But many people pointed out that the math does not work in favor of our state budget; if a water filtration plant is needed for New York City, NYC will NOT want to pay for it. So who will get saddled with that expense? Upstate. If New York State earns $1 billion a year from gas drilling for 10 years, and a water filtration system for NYC costs $20 billion, we'll be much worse off than we are even now.

Before tonight, I really thought that this was all about corporate greed. But after listening to the 60 speakers tonight, I began to get a different picture; I don't think it's about the gas. Instead, I'm beginning to see it as a planned destruction of one of the worlds largest reserves of fresh water. Our time to stop the madness is NOW; if we wait until our water is poisoned, it's TOO LATE.

One person nailed it when he said, "We expend so much energy protecting ourselves from an enemy attack, so why are we letting these people come in here to poison us?"

My opinion: The NYDEC is not doing their job of protecting the citizens or ecosystem of New York State; they have hidden motives. I call for a Complete Ban of HydroFracking in New York State, Nationally if possible.

You can find the Draft for reading at the DEC Central Office in Albany, DEC Regional Headquarters and Most public libraries in the Marcellus region. You can find it on the Internet here: http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/47554.html

All New York State citizens may send in a written comment, which will be held in the same regard as all spoken comments at any of the public hearings. The comment must be specific to the Draft Supplemental, and must be received by November 30th. You can use this online form:


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