Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society Natural Gas Drilling Update
It has been a busy year as people become better informed and more vocal on the gas issue. Citizens concerned over hydrofracking have geared up their opposition with lobbying, rallies, signs, letters to the editor, editorials, and numerous meetings. A Cornell University 2010 poll shows that New York Staters believe the risks of natural gas extraction outweigh the benefits by a 2-to-1 margin. A coalition of representatives from Otsego County environmental groups has been formed, and meets regularly in Cooperstown to address the many gas drilling problems, and to help prepare the county.
In November 2009 DOAS announced our Position Statement stating our opposition to hydrofracturing gas exploration and production, saying “even with most stringent controls and oversight this activity is an unacceptable danger to our planet, with no environmental benefits.”
The EPA is conducting a thorough $1.9 million study to evaluate potential risks associated with hydrofracturing. They will soon announce a rescheduled public hearing in NY State and are seeking wide input on what should be included, and how EPA should proceed. Their report should be completed by the end of 2012.
The anti-gas groups achieved a major victory in August with the passage of a ten-month state moratorium on high volume gas drilling and hydrofracking by the New York State Senate. If approved by the State Assembly and signed by the governor, it will allow more time for legislators to consider data not yet available and also time to study the NY Department of Environmental Conservation’s forthcoming Environmental Impact Statement. Hopes are that the new EIS will set out rules that much more adequately protect the state during high volume hydrofracking of horizontally drilled wells. Three experimental wells have been drilled and hydrofracked vertically in Otsego County, and thousands more wells are possible. DEC has announced stringent rules in the watersheds of NY City and Syracuse reservoirs to protect their pure and unfiltered waters. We think that all state residents should be protected equally.
Our concerns are many: adequate water supply (3-4 million gallons needed for every horizontally fracked well); health threats such as have occurred in Pennsylvania following well accidents which polluted water, air and ground; chemicals used in hydrofracking; storage and disposal of used fracking fluids; insufficient staffing and funds at DEC to properly oversee drilling; adequate safeguards and emergency management in case of accidents; the current exemption for gas drilling from Federal Safe Drinking Water Act; industrialization of our rural landscape and loss of fields and forests.
There have been numerous serious accidents and spills across the US recently, related to gas and oil drilling, which make us ever more aware of possible threats here in NY State.
The Citizens Against Unsafe Gas Drilling Coalition has provided a pledge for interested parties. Those who own land are invited to sign the (non-binding) pledge to NOT lease your land for gas drilling so long as the current proposed method of gas extraction poses a threat to drinking water, air quality and public health. At its August meeting, the DOAS board of directors voted to add the organization’s two properties to the pledge.
Jean T. Miller – August 30, 2010