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Reaction to NYC's stance on gas drilling

Part 2 of 2

By Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY — January 5, 2010 — December’s unveiling of a report on gas drilling by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) struck local advocates and officials differently.
As specified in the December 29 Democrat, the report indicated deep concerns over drilling’s potential environmental impact to New York City’s upstate watershed, which includes the Town of Neversink and tiny portions of the towns of Fallsburg and Liberty.
As a result, the city is pushing for a ban on gas drilling in the entire West-of-Hudson watershed spanning much of the Catskills – even though the majority of property within that watershed is privately owned.
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has now closed its public comment period and is expected to finalize new drilling rules in mid-2010.
Meanwhile, we solicited comments from several locals about the report and the DEP’s stance. All but the following were included in this past Friday’s edition:
Ramsay Adams and Wes Gillingham are the executive director and program director, respectively, of Catskill Mountainkeeper, a Youngsville-based environmental advocacy group.
“As previously reported in this paper, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection has categorically stated that drilling in the New York City drinking water supply area must not be allowed,” said Adams.
“They base this conclusion on the findings of two independent expert consulting groups commissioned by the city to study the potential of gas drilling in the New York City watershed. The experts’ opinions are that ‘high-volume hydrofracking and horizontal drilling pose unacceptable threats to the unfiltered fresh water supply of nine million New Yorkers.’
“We don’t blame New York City for wanting to protect their water supply, and we support the work they have done to help determine the risks. But the big ‘a-hah’ moment here is that all of Sullivan County and all of New York State are exposed to the same risks, and no drilling should take place anywhere in the state until it can be proven safe.
“The science cited by the DEP is corroborated by geologists, biologists and hydrogeologists hired by Catskill Mountainkeeper” and others, Adams added.
“Our experts say that the potential for long-term contaminant transport to the near-surface aquifers is real. They unequivocally state that injecting fluids into the shale will definitely cause conditions that make transport of contaminants from the shale to surface aquifers possible. This is a total contradiction of what the DEC and the gas industry have been telling us for the last 2 years.
“But the largest red flag yet for the proposed gas drilling in New York State comes from PEF/Encon, the union that represents the roughly 2,000 DEC staff. Today they called on the DEC to slow down and hold off on permitting for gas wells until there’s more information and the holes in the dSGEIS are filled.”
According to Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Program Director Wes Gillingham, “What is wrong for New York City is also wrong for Sullivan County.… While recent discussions have been focused on the science, it is very important not to forget what the impact of drilling will be on the communities here in Sullivan County.
“With the responsibility falling on to local governments for road maintenance resulting from drastic increase of heavy vehicles, for hospitals that will have to cope with accidents, for fire and emergency response personnel, etc., our local infrastructures will be incredibly stretched and very likely broken.”

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