2011 SGEIS Flaws(NY)
* The dSGEIS should be reopened for comment after the health impact review is completed. Petition Albany for that
* For a complete summary on how to respond on each category, check out http://tinyurl.com/dSGEIS-Responses
* You should also comment on the proposed fracking regulations, complete review here http://tinyurl.com/FrackingRegulations
This document will be updated as soon as the next draft dSGEIS is available for comment. It is an attempt to collect and present in a concise form the flaws of the July, and September 2011 versions of the SGEIS, addressing hydrofracking for shale gas in NY, to help citizens of NY make cogent comments to the DEC and the Governor during the public comment period.
Please refer to this shortened URL for this document:
We've tried to group related items together, as well as credit the source. We've also tried to format this in a way to make it easily readable.
The DEC public comment period may be re-opened. If your town has no land use ordinance, the "regulations" of the SGEIS will be the only protection you have. As written, that will virtually insure that rural water wells, streams and ponds will be poluted by shale gas drilling. Since the DEC has not addressed trucking, your town center could be ruined by frack truck convoys. We urge you to respond as soon as you can and to continue to send in additional responses during the 90 day review period.
Please feel free to add your updates to this document! See: Guide for editing this Wiki page
Quick Navigation Links:
SGEIS Quick Start Guide
This is a short explanation of the legal authority of the SGEIS, and a brief history.
While the term GEIS / EIS is itself generic, you are probably here to learn about a specific GEIS, i.e., the Preliminary Revised Draft SGEIS on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program for Well Permit Issuance for Horizontal Drilling and High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing to Develop the Marcellus Shale and Other Low-Permeability Gas Reservoirs (Sept 2011).
This is a revision of a document issued by the NY Department of Environmental Conservation which regulates the permitting of the oil and gas exploration and production in the state of NY. The SGEIS makes reference to regulations, but the SGEIS is not itself, regulation.
This document has undergone several revisions lately to address the impacts of several new technologies for shale gas development in the State of New York.
The current revision of the SGEIS is here:
- HTML http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/75370.html
- Entire document PDF http://www.dec.ny.gov/data/dmn/rdsgeisfull0911.pdf
The legal authority of the GEIS document (or EIS) derives from a law called SEQRA,
In 1976, the NY State Legislature enacted the State Environmental Quality Review Act ("SEQRA"), part of the Environmental Conservation Law, with the intent,
"...to declare a state policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and enhance human and community resources; and to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems, natural, human and community resources important to the people of the state." SEQR establishes a process to systematically consider environmental factors early in the planning stages of actions that are directly undertaken, funded or approved by local, regional and state agencies. By incorporating environmental review early in the planning stages, projects can be modified as needed to avoid adverse impacts on the environment." -- From the NY SEQR Handbook
Certain Acts Require an EIS under SEQRA
SEQRA requires that if an action -- such as building a pipeline, drilling a well, or drilling many wells-- is likely to cause "significant adverse impact", an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be prepared "to explore ways to avoid or reduce adverse environmental impacts or to identify a potentially less damaging alternative. If, on the other hand, the determination is made that the proposed action will not significantly impact the environment, then a Negative Declaration is prepared which ends the SEQR process." (ibid).
Purpose of an EIS
The purpose of an Environmental Impact Statement is to
- Identify possible risks to the environment,
- Assess potential impacts, and then to either
- Propose prohibition of those activities likely to cause harm, or
- Propose mitigation, or ways to reduce the harm.
This document, in absence of other state regulations, lacks the power of enforcement. It can only "suggest potential mitigation of potential impacts". (Ingraffea, 7-25-2011)
An EIS is not Regulation!
A common mistake one hears is that "NY has the best regulations in the country!" when referring to the GEIS for Oil, Gas, and Solutions Mining. In fact, the GEIS only determines the well-permitting application process. The actual regulations are very scant. See for yourself: http://www.dec.ny.gov/regs/4461.html#15537
* The actual regulations are the worst in the US http://www.scribd.com/doc/72545747/Worst-Fracking-Regs
* And the DEC's regulatory practices are grossly deficient - http://www.scribd.com/doc/76085928/Worst-Practices-at-the-DEC
According to the Handbook, and also 6 NYCRR §617.10, a Generic EIS (GEIS) may be appropriate if:
- a number of separate actions are proposed in a given geographic area and which, if considered singly, may have minor effects, but if considered together may have significant adverse environmental impacts;
- a sequence of related or contingent actions is planned by a single agency or individual;
- separate actions share common (generic) impacts; or
- a proposed program or plan would have wide application or restrict the range of future alternative policies or projects.
The 1992 Oil, Gas, and Solutions Mining GEIS
In 1992, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a Generic Environmental Impact Statement on "Oil, Gas and Solution Mining".
New technology demands revision (the SGEIS)
However, the recent technological developments of High-Volume, Slick-Water, Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing along Long Laterals for Natural Gas in Shale formations is such a new technology, little of the old document was relevant. And since the size of the formation so large, and the potential impacts were so great, in July 2008, then Governor David Patterson directed the DEC to prepare the Supplemental GEIS (SGEIS), which effectively placed a moratorium on drilling horizontal wells in the New York part of the Marcellus Shale formation.
The 2009 Draft SGEIS
A Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS) was issued in September of 2009, and has been in process since then. This document was widely criticised as being "woefully inadequate" and one petition garnered 10,000 signatories asking the governor to withdraw the document. Public hearings were held all over the state, and the DEC received over 13,000 comments on the document.
July 2011 Preliminary Draft SGEIS
In July 2011, a Preliminary Draft version of the SGEIS was released, after the DEC was ordered by Governor Cuomo to expedite the process. A "final" draft is expected in September 2011.
This document was also criticized in several key areas:
- Certain watersheds (NYC and Syracuse) received special protections, while others do not
- Well setbacks not adequate based on all peer reviewed studies
- Nothing substantive on how the wastewater will be dealt with - just a list of possibilities
- Cumulative impacts not adequately addressed (including health impacts)
- Study on economics missing, to be added late summer.
- DEC states that permits to be issued without regulation in place.
- DEC does not have the resources to enforce activity
- Local authorities were not included in the process
- DOT, DOH, and AG were not included in the process
September 2011 draft SGEIS
Contains a few of the previously missing sections, but has the same inadequacies of its predecessors, with a few new ones, including a glaring one - the Socio Economic Impact Study.
The "final" draft has the same disparate treatment of the New York City watershed, the same inadequate set-backs from rural wells and surface water, still no plans for where the fracking flow back water is to be disposed of, gas remains tax exempt in New York, etc. etc.
The added Socio-Economic Impacts study is based on gas reserve estimates that are now known to be overstated by a factor of 5x, which renders the economic projections of the study effectively meaningless.
Guide for Reading the SGEIS
While we encourage you to read the draft SGEIS document, we understand it is a daunting task for a lay-person. If you do not want to read the document, read the information on this site culled from expert analysis and use it to craft your own response to the DEC. Use this tutorial on a quick way to craft a response based on information on this site: http://my.brainshark.com/SGEIS-Responses-614385127
But please, make a comment to the DEC! This is most important.
Please familiarize yourself with the SEQR Handbook:
DEC Mission Statement
Mission: "To conserve, improve and protect New York's natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being."
Get the SGEIS
Get the SGEIS here:
SGEIS references other documents
The SGEIS references other sources which need to be taken into consideration.
Prof. Ron Bishop writes:
As I've been digging into the new draft SGEIS, I've come to realize that a number of background documents must also be dealt with. Some of them are posted by NYSERDA at: http://www.nyserda.org/publications/naturalgasproduction.asp . Others (such as Alpha Environmental Consulting, 2009) are available from NYSERDA, but not at the site just given. I realize that this imposes an additional burden on all of us, but some of the work done by consultants, on which the DEC depends, is clearly lacking in substance, and we need to address that in our comments. Such reports include a rather spurious rebuttal of the Hazen & Sawyer analysis done for the NYCDEP and the above-mentioned Alpha Environmental report, cited as Ref. 43 in Chapter 2, p 25 of the preliminary revised draft SGEIS.
General Documents on Fracking
* White papers on fracking - http://www.scribd.com/northrup49
- Frack Facts (Warning: it's huge @ 308MB!!)
- NY Times article reprints of the Ian Urbana series
- Full EPA submission (Warning, another large document)
- Otsego Advocacy - Selected Handouts about Hydrofracking
- - Information on Fracking Impacts
Connect with local people
It may be beneficial for you to connect with other local people, either a landowners coalition, or a group which is fighting fracking in your area. See this page for a list of the major groups fighting fracking in NY:
Strategies for Reading the SGEIS
Best not to attempt to read all 1100 page. Here is a copy of the Sept. draft. (http://www.dec.ny.gov/data/dmn/rdsgeisfull0911.pdf)
Best to take a small section at a time, or simply read the comments on this site. Here are some different strategies which may help facilitate your responses:
- If you want to read the document and see what you can find, and perhaps share it by editing this Wiki, then here are some ideas:
- Start with the executive summary :(http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/rdsgeisch10911.pdf)
- Start with the last chapter: (Index of the document is at the end)
- Read chapter summaries first.
- Or, go in-depth into a subject area you are interested in.
- What is missing from the document?
- Get your group together, and everyone take one chapter. Share your findings here!
- ... invent your own!
Speaking of missing stuff, read this:
- Martha Goodsell: http://tinyurl.com/dSGEIS2009TOC
- Martha writes: I recently started reading the 2011 released version of the dSGEIS looking to see if some of TING's recommendations were taken into consideration. I soon realized that entire sections were deleted that were in the original 2009 version (like impoundments and dam construction) that were now not included in the 2011 version. They may just be moved to a new chapter, but I don't know yet. In an effort to help with side by side comparison I created a table of contents for the first version. (If you remember the first draft had the table of contents at the front of each chapter and not at the front of the entire document). The table of contents for the 2011 version is readily available at the DEC site. http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeistoc.pdf So, if anyone is working through the "what's different" don't rely on the track changes within the document which shows the additions, but not the deletions. Hopefully the attached table of contents from the 2009 version will help you in this process and prevent you from having to recreate it for yourself!
Guide for making comments
The latest draft of the SGEIS, as flawed as it is, is a significant improvement over the first and second drafts. That indicates that it can be improved upon further - by people like you. Case in point - the first draft had a proposed well set-back from a municipal drinking water lake of 50 feet - next to nothing. The second draft moved that to 150 feet - slightly more than nothing. The latest draft has moved that to 2,000 feet. The positive changes came from input from people like you. For many Upstate New Yorkers, the final SGEIS will be the only protection that they have. Getting it right may be the most important thing that you can help do. Please respond with your comments to the DEC.
Every comment is important! Yet, some comments will be more helpful than others - be as specific as possible.
If you cite documents, papers, studies, or articles which are not already referenced in the SGEIS, be sure to attach them with your filings.
* The quickest way to craft a response is to use this wiki site for source material. This video explains how to make online responses http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deNiK_nl1jQ
Some people want safer drilling. Some people want a statewide ban.
Whether you are against fracking altogether, or you are for "safe drilling", you should make a comment to the DEC about the flaws with this document!
If you are in the "statewide ban" camp, let's suggest you look at it this way: Towns all over NY are banning fracking at a local level. The movement for a statewide ban is growing each day. If we get this SGEIS sent back to the drawing board for another 6 months to a year, this gives us even more time to get our legislators on board for a statewide ban. They are out of regular session now until January 2012, so unless there is an emergency session called, they won't be able to do anything (like, pass a legislative ban) until around the time when permits could begin being issued.
Absent a state-wide ban, the final SGEIS may be the only protection that many New Yorkers have. So it is critical that the final regulations be as comprehensive as possible and that the DEC be funded to enforce them.
Even if you are for safe drilling, this document has little protections for most people in NY. Yes, there is a lot of money involved, and delays might be considered "expensive".
Even if you are a landowner with a lease, we all owe it to ourselves, and to future generations to protect this precious land. This document, while substantially better than the last one, is still "woefully inadequate". Read on and see why...
I have a lease that I want to get out of. (...or...) I do not want to be forced into a well.
Land owners with leases and their neighbors have something in common. Both are in need of good regulations, so commenting on the SGEIS is in order.
Many leaseholders have leases that they want to get out of, particularly where the gas company is attempting to extend the lease against the owner's will. You should send your comments about being forced to retain a bad lease to the DEC and the AG. See "Property Rights" - "Forced Lease Extensions" For more information, http://fleased.org/
If you live next to leased land, and your town has no land use regulations for shale gas industrialization, you need to comment on these regulations since the final SGEIS may be the only protection that you have. If you do not want to be compulsorily integrated into a well, you need to send your comments in to the DEC and copy the AG on them. See the "Property Rights" section. "Compulsory Integration"
Bottom Line on Why Commenting on the SGEIS is Important:
Whether or not HVHF wells are permitted in New York is beyond the scope of this guide. If HVHF wells are permitted, the proposed SGEIS will set the permitting conditions, perhaps in addition to real regulations.
You might have heard, "NY State has the best regulations of the Oil and Gas Industry!". However, there are almost no regulations at all. These were promised after the 1992 GEIS, but mostly never were added. Presently, the actual DEC regulations of the Oil and Gas Industry are meager. See for yourself: http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/1630.html
If a town does not have local land use controls (zoning, road preservation, or prohibition consistent with the town's Comprehensive Plan) which address shale gas industrialization, then the proposed SGEIS may be the sole controlling document.
Since the current draft is substantially better than the original draft, it is clear that the DEC listens to an responds to well-reasoned input. So we would encourage you to use this guide and send in a written response to the DEC. Since the EPA was precluded from regulating gas drilling by the "Halliburton loophole" in 2005, the SGEIS may be all that most New Yorkers are left with to protect them from the hazards of shale gas explorations. http://126.96.36.199/documents/Otsego2000CommentsDOE-SEABdraftreport-8-15-11.pdf
Examples of Responses to the Sept 2011 dSGEIS
- This video explains some ways to use these wiki sites to craft responses online and via snail mail.
* You can also respond to the proposed fracking regulations, here http://tinyurl.com/FrackingRegulations'
Where do I send my comments ?
Online Submission to the DEC
I. DEC You can use the DEC's online comment form, here; * http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/76838.html * This shortened URL is easy to remember and takes you to the same place: TinyURL.com/SubmitSGEISComment
Paper Copy to the DEC
Letters should be sent here:
Attn: dSGEIS Comments, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-6510. Please include the name, address, and affiliation (if any) of the commenter. Paper submissions also will be accepted at the public hearings date/locations TBD.
Send a copy of your comment to other officials
II. Governor The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York State (518) 474-8390 NYS State Capitol Building Albany, NY 12224 http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContactForm.php
III. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman 1-800-771-7755 Office of the Attorney General, The Capitol Albany, NY 12224-0341 http://www.ag.ny.gov/online_forms/email_ag.jsp
IV. New York State Department of Health Dr. Shah, Commissioner, New York State Department of Health 518-474-2011 Corning Tower, Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12237 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.health.state.ny.us/ Alternate DOH contact: Dr. Howard Freed, Director, Center for Environmental Health New York State Department of Health 547 River Street Troy, NY 12180-2216 518-402-7500 email@example.com
V. Your state Senator, and Assemblyman Type in your address http://www.nysenate.gov/contact_form here where it says "Find my Senator" to locate your state Senator.
VI. Your state Assemblyman Type in your address http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/?sh=search here to locate your State Assembly representative.
Please Publish Your Comments on Your Blog!
The DEC's web submission system, so far, is not transparent. There is now way for the citizens of NY to observe the comments as they are coming in. This means it is imperative for you to share your comments with the community. Publish your comments on your blog, and on local email lists, so that others can benefit from your comments. If you know of information that we have overlooked on this wiki, please edit this page and add them! (or contact one of the other editors -- see above)
Odds and Ends regarding comments
- The public comment period has begun. Please check the DEC website for the dates of public hearings around the state. You may file comments by mail and/or the DEC's electronic response. Mail is preferable. But do not hesitate to use the online submission form if you prefer.
- Form letters and petitions will not suffice - they only count as one response. Save a stamp. Make your comments personalized, even when quoting responses from this site.
- You may send comments on the SGEIS to Governor Cuomo, AG, NYSDOT, Department of Health, etc. at any time. The sooner the better.
- If you are able, sure to copy all correspondence and comments to the Department of Health, Gov. Cuomo, and the Attorney General.
- Multiple letters on different topics are better than one letter on several topics. So consider sending separate comments on each topic addressed, in addition to a letter that addresses multiple issues. Meaning, you should send as many distinct responses as you can in order to focus the DEC on each topic. The DEC review, categorize and catalog the responses by topic. Use the online submission form to facilitate multiple responses on different topics.
Guide for editing this Wiki page
A Couple of Ground Rules
- Keep it concise please!
- Where you can, please give reference (section number, paragraph) of the 2011 SGEIS.
- If you find a statement which is not sourced, see if you can add a reference.
- State your concern as a clear statement of fact about a flaw with the document or process.
- For example... Instead of "How can the DEC monitor drilling thoroughly ?",
- Say this: "It is clear due to staffing cuts the DEC cannot monitor drilling thoroughly"
- Disruptive edits will be reverted
- If you don't know Wiki markup and you have contributions, send them to either Chip Northrup: firstname.lastname@example.org or Bill Huston: WilliamAHuston@gmail.com
Here are some commentaries by experts and lay people which might help you draft your comments to the DEC.
These may serve as guides for your comments - but you must comment - and you should get your group, your town board and your county board to comment as well.
The SGEIS is a politically sensitive document - and it merits a political as well as a technical response.
Expert Analysis of the SGEIS
Here are some excellent expert commentaries which you can begin studying right now:
* Advocates for Springfield. Harry Levine - DEC Estimates of Shale Gas Reserves Are Drastically Overstated http://www.scribd.com/doc/68519448/NY-Gas-Reserve-Estimates
* 10-15 Ithaca Forum on the SGEIS - Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, Dr. Jannette Barth, Commissioner Ed Marx, Chip Northrup http://tinyurl.com/ithaca-sgeis
- NEW! Dr. Janette Barth's preliminary comments on the Sept 2011 Economics Study: http://tinyurl.com/DrBarthOnSep2011SGEISEconStudy
- James L. 'Chip' Northrup, energy industry investor:
- The Ithaca Panel -- 7-25-11
- Karen Edlestein, mapping consultant:
- Helen Slottje, CEDC:
- Tony Ingraffea, Cornell:
- Lou Allstadt, former Executive Vice President of Mobil Oil Corporation:
- Roger Downs, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter
- The audio from the 7-25-2011 panel in Ithaca is here:
The presenters slides are here:
The video is here:
Transcripts from the Ithaca panel are here: http://shaleshockmedia.org/transcripts-tompkins-county-forum-on-revised-draft-sgeis-july-25-2011/
- Catskill Mountain Keeper:
- National Wildlife Federation
- Environmental Advocates
- Kate Sinding, NRDC
- Radioactive Waste Management Associates
- Walter Hang, Toxics Targeting
(These apparently are Walter's latest general comments. However, they are not specific to the July 2011 Preliminary Revised Draft. Keep checking here and at http://ToxicsTargeting.com for his latest when it is published.)
- While not strictly related to the SGEIS, this report just released by the European Union recommends that the EU ban fracking:
- Ted Fink, GREENPLAN Inc's Town of Middlefield Land Use Analysis http://greenplan.org/GREENPLAN_Website/Our_Work/Entries/2011/6/14_Land_Use_Analysis__Gas_Drilling_%26_Fracking.html
Editor's Picks -- Top 17 Flaws
These are the Editor's Picks of some of the most important points.
1: Equal Protection
- All drinking water should be protected, not just NYC's reservoirs. http://www.scribd.com/doc/76434098/DEC-s-Disparate-Treatment-of-Water
- By giving the NYC and Syracuse Watersheds special protections, the NY DEC is implicitly admitting this process is inherently unsafe, and denies many New Yorkers Equal Protection of the Law. Q: Why the special protections? A: because this activity is inherently unsafe. Both the United States Constitution (14th Amendment) and the NY Constitution (Art. I, § 11) demand that all persons are deserving Equal Protection of the Law. These regulations fail this. (Walter Hang)
- The distinction that the NYC watershed is an unfiltered water source is a straw man. First, there are many people in upstate who are using unfiltered water from wells. Next, municipal water filtration systems are not sufficient to remove the range of toxins found in typical hyrdofracking water contamination (methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), heavy metals, naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORMs), etc.) Municipal filters are not effective against these toxins, so the very basis of the NYC unfiltered water vs. filtered water systems distinction is dubious at best. http://www.scribd.com/doc/65224175/SGEIS-NYC-Reservoirs
2: No Public Health Impact Analysis
- No analysis of public health impacts despite the fact that fracking-related air pollution and the potential for water contamination have serious effects on people-especially the elderly and children, and communities downwind and downstream of proposed fracking operations. There is growing evidence of negative health impacts related to gas extraction in other states. (Environmental Advocates, and Larysa Dyrszka, MD)
- The DOH has not participated in the review process. Indeed, the problems associated with shale gas development near housing have only recently been catalogued as drilling has moved into suburban locations and farming communities.
- There is a growing body of evidence on the health impacts associated with shale gas industrialization, yet the DEC has avoided a health impact assessment of them. http://www.propublica.org/article/science-lags-as-health-problems-emerge-near-gas-fields This is irresponsible and bad public policy.
3: Drinking water supplies inadequately protected
* Shallow groundwater wells are uniquely vulnerable to being polluted by drilling operations. Drilling introduces methane into groundwater. http://www.scribd.com/doc/65577477/How-Gas-Wells-Leak
* Drilling near surface water sources virtually guarantees that they will be susceptible to being polluted by methane. Methane infused water is not potable. In high enough concentrations it is flammable.
* The proposed gas well setback of 500 feet from a water well is not adequate. See Sections 4.7 and 6.1.4 http://www.scribd.com/doc/65079406/SGEIS-Water-Setbacks
* Setbacks from drinking water sources is transparently political - not scientific http://www.scribd.com/doc/66390117/The-Political-Science-of-the-SGEIS
- The preliminary draft increases buffers and setbacks from aquifers and wells. However the protections are inconsistent and can be waived in some instances. All setbacks and buffers must be set to provide maximum protections that cannot be altered. (Environmental Advocates)
- While proposing to put the New York City and Syracuse watersheds off-limits to drilling, critical water supply infrastructure would not be protected.
- The state proposes a buffer around New York City drinking water infrastructure in which only an additional review would be required and upon which projects could be permitted-not a formal ban. The proposed buffer is only one-quarter as long as a typical horizontal wellbore, too close to the sensitive, aging infrastructure that provides the city with drinking water. There are no proposed buffer requirements for Syracuse. (Environmental Advocates)
4: No Way to Dispose of Toxic Fracking Waste fluids
- There is no way to dispose of frack waste fluids, and no way to clean the toxins from the "water" (calling flowback or "produced" fluids water is quite a misnomer), without re-introducing the toxins back into the environment. The best solution so far is to truck the waste to deep injection wells, the nearest ones being in Ohio, but these are not without problems (see the section on earthquakes). The DEC has no solutions, only 'suggestions' as to how to get rid of hundreds of billions of gallons of toxic radioactive wastewater. http://www.scribd.com/doc/65435029/SGEIS-Fracking-Flowback
- 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. (Catskill Mountainkeeper)
- Fracking wastewater is destructive to the beneficial bacteria used in municipal sewage treatment facilities and thus when dumped there interferes with the plant's ability to treat wastes.
- The preliminary draft allows drilling waste to escape treatment as hazardous waste, even if it is in fact hazardous under the law. This means fracking waste could be sent to municipal sewage treatment facilities unable to properly treat it, putting the health and safety of our waters and communities at grave risk. (Environmental Advocates)
- The state proposes allowing sewage plants to treat drilling wastes, even though such plants are not permitted to handle the toxic elements in such wastes, and even though the DEC itself has called into question New York’s capacity and ability to treat fracking wastes. (Environmental Advocates) This practice is no longer allowed in other states, including Pennsylvania, where treated sludge was not properly disposed of, contaminating surface water.
5: Protection of Primary Aquifers for Limited Time Only
- 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. (Catskill Mountainkeeper)
- Some fracking restrictions would have sunset dates. The preliminary draft proposes to place some areas of the state off limits to gas drilling, but upon closer examination, many of the restrictions have sunset dates and some of the protective buffers only call for site-specific individual environmental review, rather than clear restrictions. (Environmental Advocates)
6: 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. (Catskill Mountainkeeper)
7: Permits to be Issued before Rulemaking Process is Complete
- See 3.3 Regulations - Regulations were never written for the 1992 GEIS, of which this most recent draft SGEIS is a monstrous "supplement". Therefore, there are no "regulations" per se, and the DEC proposes to issue horizontal well permits without regulations in place.
- The document lays out a rulemaking process that would formalize its proposed safeguards in a single set of uniform, legally enforceable regulations, which is critical, but in a totally backward move they have said that they would begin processing permit applications before the rulemaking is finished. (Catskill Mountainkeeper)
- The DEC proposes issuing permits before formal rulemaking is complete, a backward move that leaves New York’s waters and communities at risk. (Environmental Advocates)
- The DEC has proposed a set of regulations for shale gas industrialization. Responses are concurrent with dSGEIS responses - see this site for more details: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Fracking_Regulations
8: 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. (Catskill Mountainkeeper)
- As proposed the DEC staff will review the well applications one at a time, in isolation. Wells are drilled as part of multiple well drilling programs - not one at a time. The DEC should be prepared to look at and understand multiple well applications - which is how the industry operates.
9: Special Risk Areas Not Protected
- Regional Areas of Special 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. (Catskill Mountainkeeper)
10: Open Waste Pits Not Banned
- 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. (Catskill Mountainkeeper)
- See for instance 188.8.131.52 (Drilling Fluids) -- In the past drilling fluid or "mud" has contained asbestos powder. Recovered drilling mud contain drill cuttings from the shale which, by definition, have elevated levels of radioactivity. No open pits for drilling mud or fracking fluids or flowback should be permitted.
- In fact, while prohibition is one option available to the lead agency preparing the GEIS in dealing with risks of potential harms identified, there is actually very little of anything which is prohibited. Only, "proposed mitigations". (Ingraffea, 7-25-11)
11: DEC understaffed
* The Department of Minerals Resources at the DEC has never adequately regulated gas wells and has never been adequately staffed - http://www.scribd.com/doc/76085928/Worst-Practices-at-the-DEC
- New York DEC has been subject to steep budget and staff cuts and does not have adequate staff or resources to properly oversee fracking, even if every possible protection were in place This reality raises the possibility that the DEC will be forced to cut corners with its reviews or fast-track permits despite the risks. Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Advocates of New York are members of an advisory panel expected to weigh in on agency resources (Environmental Advocates)
- The DEC proposes to limit well permitting to its staff's capacities, see 9.2.4, at a time when staff are being cut, not added. There are 17 staff for Division of Mineral Resources to oversee 14,000 + active wells and new permits. Absent adequate funding - in the form of higher permit fees and a severance tax - the DEC will remain unable to do its job effectively. This chronic lack of resources caused former Commissioner Grannis to leave.
12: Environmental Impact Reviews Split Among Several Agencies
- The thousands of miles of pipelines or compressor stations required for drilling to get the resulting gas to market will be reviewed by a different agency under a different process. Without an accounting of such impacts, New York’s environmental assessment is incomplete and the full impacts of fracking are unknown. The Public Service Commission has jurisdiction over gas infrastructure. As such, Governor Cuomo should direct state agencies to coordinate their efforts in order to protect our air, water and communities. (Environmental Advocates)
13: DEC Conflict of Interest
- How can the same agency, which is charged to
"conserve, improve and protect New York's natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being"
Most oil and gas producing states separate the gas well permitting function from the environmental regulatory agency. Meaning, the environmental agency is not compromised by the task of issuing well-permits. Combining the two functions - well permitting and environmental oversight - insures that the DEC's environmental stewardship will be compromised. The DEC cannot serve two masters - the gas industry and the environment.
14: No ban on any chemicals, even those known to be toxic and carcinogenic
- While the proposed public disclosure component has been strengthened, telling New Yorkers what toxic chemicals will be used is not the same as protecting the public from negative health impacts. (Environmental Advocates)
- 184.108.40.206 Required Hydraulic Fracturing Additive Information The DEC does not require disclosure of materials listed as "trade secrets" - which could include carcinogens and toxins. Such chemicals should be disclosed and banned from use in New York.
15: DEC failed to use SEQR review for spreading PA flowback fluids on NY roads
- The DEC has already failed to protect NY drinking water by allowing wastewater from PA to be spread on roads in NY without the necessary SEQR review'.
http://www.toxicstargeting.com/MarcellusShale/documents/2011/07/21/wastewater-spreading . (Walter Hang)
16: No PA data
- After 4 years of intense drilling in PA, there is no data from PA about groundwater contamination or other actual impacts there in the SGEIS (Tony Ingraffea) 22 July 2011. See:
Capitol Pressroom: http://blogs.wcny.org/the-captiol-pressroom-for-july-22-2011/
17: Insufficient Public Comment Period
- According to the DEC , "In an attempt to keep the public informed on the progress of this matter, this Preliminary Revised Draft SGEIS is being posted. A more complete revised draft will be provided for public comment", after several delays, early September 2011. This document is over 1,000 pages, yet the public will not be given access to the actual document until after the public comment period has begin? We the public need more time to adequately study this document.
- The public has the legal right to comment on the Draft, but it may not have the time to do so. The Cuomo Administration and the DEC are giving the public just sixty days to read and comment on this huge, highly technical document. This is an impossible task for the ordinary citizen, as well as for scientists and technicians who could contribute valuable ideas if given the time to carefully analyze the DEC's plan for fracking. (Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy)
Critique By Topic
Threats to Water
One of the greatest threats posed by hydrofracking is water pollution. The sources of pollution are many, and we would encourage you to address each one in a separate letter to the DEC and copy the DOH.
- No ban on any chemicals, even those known to be toxic and carcinogenic
- Drinking water supplies inadequately protected - the proposed gas well setback from a residential water well is only 500 feet.
- Toxic wastewater still a major problem - There are no safe ways to dispose of or treat toxic and radioactive fracking flowback fluids.
- Protection of Primary Aquifers is for Limited Time Only
The Destruction of Water
Never before in this history of the Earth has water been destroyed, and shale-gas drilling destroys massive quantities of the precious resource, necessary for all life.
In NY State, it is projected we will have 70,000 hydrofracked Marcellus wells. Based on 5 million gallons of water, this equals ~350 billion gallons of water destroyed. This is about the size of Keyuka Lake.
This is just for NY. Worldwide, the amount of water already destroyed for hydrofracking shale gas may be in the tens of trillions of gallons.
Water is made toxic with a poisonous brew of up to 596 chemicals, then forced underground. Some of it comes back, only made more toxic then when it went down, with added heavy metals, and naturally occurring radioactive materials, and massive amounts of salt.
Much of the water stays deep underground, essentially, forever, permanently removed from the hydrological cycle.
Where are the studies by the DEC which show the potential impacts of permanently removing 300B gallons of water from the NY Watersheds? There are no scientific studies on this matter. Science is based on models and experimental data. However, never before in human history have we ever performed such an experiment.
Might this lead to the turning of the living NY forests into a desert? Perhaps. Might this lead to massive climate change? Yes. Might this lead to the destruction of life-- human life, plant life, animal life, birds and aquatic life-- on a massive scale? Maybe. The Precautionary Principle demands that we examine worst-case scenarios. We must, as a society, use great caution when the stakes are this high.
- 6.5 Air Quality Page 6-90
Almost all activities of the development of a shale gas field generate air pollution. This has not escaped the notice of the EPA. Cumulatively, that contributes to pollution over the impacted area, but can peak in areas where the pollution occurs during periods of low air flow in valleys.
Fracking the Farmland and Foodshed
- HVHF of shale gas can negatively impact farming in New York.
- Frack truck traffic crowd out farm vehicles on rural roads. The DEC has no control over this. Most towns have inadequate road laws and little enforcement.
- Livestock ponds and private lakes are not protected in the dSGEIS at all. Gas drilling nearby is a sure way to introduce methane into such waterbodies.
- The set-back from streams is only 150 feet, which insures that many of them will be polluted.
Quality of Life
* The DEC is not a land use agency, nor does it propose any safeguards for communities. Indeed, the proposed regulations for gas well setbacks from structures are the worst in the US. http://www.scribd.com/doc/72545747/Worst-Fracking-Regs
* The DEC has historically deferred to local land use regulations that address quality of life issues http://www.scribd.com/doc/63141534/New-York-Gas-Well-Zoning
* If the DEC were genuinely concerned about the impact of shale gas drilling, it would defer to local ordinances http://www.scribd.com/doc/76438692/Shale-Gas-Impacts-on-Communities
- Noise and Light pollution - These are mentioned, see for instance 6.10, but the DEC proposes no regulations. Noise ordinances are the proper purview of local ordinances. However, communities are specifically prohibited (preempted) from the regulation of the industry by Article 23, Title 3, § 23-0303 of the Environmental Conservation Law.
- Community Impact - This is mentioned, 6,12, but the DEC has no authority to regulate local land uses or enforce local ordinances, which are the proper responsibility of towns and cities.
- Transient workforce - most drilling in New York will be exploratory for some time. Trained crews from out of state will be brought in for this.
- Transformation of Rural to Industrial landscape - the proposed SGEIS is nothing less than an industrial land use plan for much of the Southern Tier.
This draft of the SGEIS acknowledges that local land use ordinances (zoning) must be taken into a consideration for the siting of wells during the permitting process. Section 220.127.116.11. This is a major advance over previous drafts, but it is not sufficient. The SGEIS is a de facto industrial land use plan for much of Upstate. If a town or city has no industrial land use, the SGEIS for HVHF effectively supplies them one. The impact on some towns would be devastating, as this land use analysis illustrates, http://www.greenplan.org/GREENPLAN_Website/Our_Work/Entries/2011/6/14_Land_Use_Analysis__Gas_Drilling_%26_Fracking.html . It does not have to be like this. Towns should be have the last say over their land uses, in accordance with a carefully crafted land use plan, http://my.brainshark.com/Land-Use-Planning-to-Protect-Your-Town-482597169 and land use ordinance.
Regulations, Preemptions, Zoning, and Local Prohibtions
For the first time, the DEC recognizes local ordinances in its permit review process, see Section 18.104.22.168. So a town is better off with a good land use plan and ordinances than without them.
Local land use laws (zoning) could be useful for deciding the siting of well locations, or prohibiting them. This is common in other states. http://www.scribd.com/doc/63141534/NYzoning
If your town board has not adopted such ordinances, you should demand they pass them now, or get a new town board.
Likewise, bills have been introduced to clarify a municipality's ability to apply local ordinances over drilling,as is common in other states. http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S5830-2011
Noise and light impacts are addressed by the final draft SGEIS, (see 6.10). Communities should be able to use local ordinances to regulate these impacts, but, that authority needs to be clarified by the Legislature, as currently any attempts of local municipalities to regulate the oil and gas industry, e.g., noise ordinances. Bills have been introduced to clarify state law such that local ordinances can apply to well sites. noise., etc. The state DEC clearly regulates the process of drilling as per ECL 23:
Article 23, Title 3, § 23-0303 of the Environmental Conservation Law, states:
2. The provisions of this article shall supersede all local laws or ordinances relating to the regulation of the oil, gas and solution mining industries; but shall not supersede local government jurisdiction over local roads or the rights of local governments under the real property tax law. -- See: http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/LAWSSEAF.cgi?QUERYTYPE=LAWS+&QUERYDATA=$$ENV23-0303$$@TXENV023-0303+&LIST=LAW+&BROWSER=BROWSER+&TOKEN=59472429+&TARGET=VIEW
Clarification of a municipality's rights in regards to drilling activities will either come from the courts or the legislature. It would be better if it came from the Legislature. Ask your representatives to support Home Rule as it pertains to drilling. Your town should seek legal expert council on how to craft useful ordinances. There are many good land use planners and land use attorneys that can help in this process.
For land use planning, see for instance. http://www.planningbetterplaces.com/ And http://www.greenplan.org/GREENPLAN_Website/Our_Work/Our_Work.html
The Community Environment Legal Defense Council, Inc. is a NY-based non-profit public service law firm which provides free help to communities in this area of law. Please contact: http://cedclaw.org PO Box 898. Ithaca, NY 14851 email@example.com 607-277-5136 (fax)
Wastewater disposal and treatment
- There are no safe ways to dispose of fracking flowback in New York state - no disposal wells to take it, no treatment plants designed to clean it. So the DEC attempts to rationalize spreading it on the roads as "de-icer" and proposes to allow it to be dumped into municipal waste water treatment plants - which are incapable of removing the chemicals and radioactive material known to exist in frack flowback. See Sections 6 and 7 below.
Threats to Forests
Threats to wildlife
- Open Waste Pits Not Banned for drilling mud. This presents a severe threat to waterfowl, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZeY7zHhiwI which is not sufficiently addressed in the SGEIS.. http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/contaminants/documents/ReservePits.pdf
- Drilling can introduce methane into groundwater, streams and rivers, http://www.theintelligencer.net/page/content.detail/id/547818/Methane-bubbling-in-Fish-Creek.html?nav=515 and methane infused water kills fish. http://www.offshore-environment.com/gasimpact.html
- Bans on Drilling in State-Owned Land are Inadequate, since the policy is ministerial by the DEC, and needs to be codified with legislation.
DEC process / Implementation Issues
One of the greatest problems of the proposed SGEIS is that it is not regulations, simply a guideline for permitting conditions, which a few DEC staffers -- likely with imperfect knowledge of local conditions -- must interpret.
* The DEC has never had a full set of rules and regulations for gas wells http://www.scribd.com/doc/76085928/Worst-Practices-at-the-DEC
The 1992 GEIS, of which this is a glorified "supplement", was supposed to be used to craft actual regulations - but the DEC never bothered to do so. Unlike other states, New York has no set regulations for drilling oil and gas wells.
- Permits to be Issued before Rulemaking Process is Complete - no permits should be issued until regulations are in place.
- Cumulative Impact Requirements Incomplete - well permits are reviewed one at a time - with no sense of the cumulative impact of many wells
- DEC understaffed - There are 17 staff for Division of Mineral Resources to oversee 14,000 + active wells and new permits
- Environmental Impact Reviews Split Among Several Agencies
- DEC Conflict of Interest - In most states', with the exceptions of New York and Pennsylvania, the state environmental agency is separate from the minerals management agency. This enables the environmental agency to maintain some autonomy and objectivity - and, frankly put, keep it from being compromised in its objectives. It is axiomatic that the industry will dominate the minerals management function - it will be politicized and then compromised. So combining that function with environmental oversight virtually insures that the task of safe-guarding the environment will be jeopardized. The DEC's SGEIS offers vivid examples that science and safeguards are being trumped by expediency of gas exploitation.
Unfortunately, one of the worst examples of such a compromised bureaucracy is the BP Gulf oil disaster - the drilling permit was issued by a federal agency, and there was no commensurate environmental review - because the EPA's oversight over drilling had been removed in 2005.
- DEC failed to use SEQR review for spreading PA wastwater on NY roads
- Admission of Inherent Safety Risk / Equal Protection
- No PA data
- Insufficient Public Comment Period
- Special Risk Areas Not Protected
Public Health Impacts
- No health impact assessment was done, nor any risk analysis on potential human health impacts. The DEC is, in effect, proposing to conduct an experiment on the health and safety of millions of New Yorkers, without any analysis or report on the health impacts from the DOH.http://www.gasdrillingtechnotes.org/sgeis-needs-health-comments.html
Below is a list of potential stressors on human health in areas where gas drilling is occurring, with references to relevant sections of the July 2011 SGEIS (Larysa Dyrszka, MD)
- Air pollution at drilling site and along pipelines (including GHG emissions, ozone, NOX, VOCs) (sec 6.1 and 6.5 and 6.6 and subparts http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeisch6.pdf, and also see Appendix 19 http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeisapp3.pdf, also Ch 11 )
- Air pollution from truck traffic ( see Appendix 19 http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeisapp3.pdf )
- Water quality and quantity (sec 6.1 and subparts http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeisch6.pdf , also sec 7.1 http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeisch7.pdf and Ch 11)
- Special exclusion for certain watersheds ( see sections 22.214.171.124 to 126.96.36.199 http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeisch6.pdf )
- Soil contamination (sec 7.1.3 and ch 11) and foodshed impacts (nothing in the SGEIS)
- Chemicals (can include endocrine disruptors here or in its own category) (see sec 5.4 http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeisch5.pdf , sec 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124 and 6.5 and 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52 and 9.3.1 and ch11)
- Endocrine disruptors - nothing in the SGEIS.
- NORM and radioactive waste The drilling and fracking process effectively "mines" radioactive materials. Shale is inherently more radioactive than other sedimentary layers. Once "mined" by drill cuttings and leached from the shale via frack flowback, the radioactive materials are further concentrated by recycling frack flowback, and by reducing it to a toxic radioactive sludge. Radon is removed from the raw gas and may be vented at gas processing plants. This concentration of radioactivity makes shale gas industrialization inherently hazardous. (see sec 184.108.40.206 http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeisch5.pdf and and 220.127.116.11 and 6.6 http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeisch6.pdf and sec 7.7 http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeisch7.pdf, and also Appendix 13 http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeisapp2.pdf , also Appendix 27 http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeisapp3.pdf , also Ch 11)
- Other waste (like heavy metals, VOCs, etc) (sec 5.13 http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeisch5.pdf and 6.1.8 and 6.1.9 http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeisch6.pdf, and Ch 7, and Appendix 21 and 22 http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeisapp3.pdf, also Ch 11 )
- Spills (sec 7.1.3 and ch 11)
- Accidents Working on a drilling rig is inherently dangerous. Frack truck convoys invariably speed, which leads to accidents. http://my.brainshark.com/Frack-Truck-Convoys-By-Chip-Northrup-142091865
- Noise, visual impacts and light (see sec 6.8 and 6.9 in August http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogprdsgeisch6.pdf )
- Impacts on community character (could include socioeconomic issues here or separately) (sec 6.11 -- will be added by August)
- Socioeconomic issues (like property value loss, loss of usual income from farms, wineries, tourism, second-homes, displacement of families from rentals, etc) (will be added in August)
- Impacts on health infrastructure - nothing found in the July 2011 SGEIS
- Psychological stressors (including addressing whether vulnerable populations are protected) - nothing found in the July 2011 SGEIS
- Is public health protected? (see sec 18.104.22.168--scroll down to citizen complaints) See health impacts of fracking in Pennsylvania. http://www.scribd.com/doc/63147811/Health-Impacts-of-Fracking
- Is the Precautionary Principle applied? - nothing found in the July 2011 SGEIS
- Here is a link to the Battlement Mesa HIA http://www.garfield-county.com/public-health/battlement-mesa-health-impact-assessment-draft2.aspx which studied the stressors to human health as experienced in Colorado;
Also, here are three peer-reviewed papers on potential health impacts related to gas drilling, FYI:
- Alaska_HIA_integrated_with_EIS.pdf https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=1BDdqXySrSa3sFySw7Oqsr0dkDZCBm0RGkd8Ubqb0hLapcWrnx-R1afdlXyou&hl=en_US
- HealthWitterWhitePaper.pdf https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=1trnV2mTD251eQzacCgfEtIMUoK6vMaSSzx7xsL_bXzdPyMJorOPvh3zq-Oba&hl=en_US
- HealthColborn_.pdf https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=1cVM7v-WOGrd23vFFtKeOa7JWokqz-aiyMLNw7gdhABgQqUaDCLBCB9Su6ddS&hl=en_US
Also see Dr. Larysa Dyrszka's site for comments on the SGEIS by Health Professionals: http://www.gasdrillingtechnotes.org/sgeis-health-profession-comments.html
- The negative impacts of gas gathering systems and transmission lines is largely ignored by the DEC.
22.214.171.124: "Gathering lines and pipelines are not within the scope of project review as the Public Service Commission has exclusive jurisdiction to review these activities under Public Service Law Article VII. Compressor stations associated with gathering lines and pipelines are also under the Public Service Commission’s Public Service Law Article VII review authority except that the Department has jurisdiction under ECL Article 19 (air pollution) to review air emissions and ECL Article 17 for the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program"
So the DEC has abrogated its responsibility as an environmental agency, since it does not regulate (permit) pipelines. And the PSC has not addressed the impacts of new gas lines - and the the pipelines and gathering lines necessary for the proposed large-scale development of 60,000 to 70,000 wells planned in NY will have a massive effect upon the environment:
- Risks of fires and explosions - no mapping is required of low pressure gas lines in New York
- Venting of transported gas during leaks and pipeline repairs.
- Air pollution associated with compressor stations (venting and diesel exhaust) - venting of toxic gases, including radon and benzene
- Segmentation and conversion of farm land and wild spaces
- Permanent clearing of trees in pipeline right-of-ways - such clearings should require planting of replacement trees
- Pipeline problems are not unknown in New York - A recent federal report states that the 182 mile Millennium Pipeline is unsafe due to faulty welds, which was discovered during repair of a leak in Jan. 2011 in Owego: -The New York State Department of Public Service conducted a five-month investigation, and determined that a 1/8-inch leak caused by a faulty weld released 1.3 million cubic feet of natural gas from the pipeline. The Southern Tier's major natural gas pipeline poses a public safety risk due to defective welds that could lead to a rupture, according to a recent federal report. The Millennium Pipeline, which runs more than 180 miles from Steuben County to Rockland County, has been under investigation since a leak was detected Jan. 11 near Schneider Road in the Town of Owego." http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20110806/NEWS01/108060348/Millenium-Pipeline-unsafe-according-federal-report
Road Use / Trucks
* The SGEIS mentions trucking but provides no adequate rules and regulations - http://www.scribd.com/doc/76437212/Frack-Truck-Impacts-on-Towns
- The impact of trucking in shale gas industrialization can be massively disruptive to rural communities. The draft SGEIS addresses the negative impacts of frack truck convoys in a cursory, oblique manner; see for instance 6.11 and 126.96.36.199. That is because the DEC has no regulatory authority over trucking. Indeed, the state has no ability to enter into road use agreements with trucking operations. And, as a practical matter, little control over such convoys other than speeding tickets and safety violations, which are poorly enforced on rural roads.
- All New Yorkers in Upstate would experience the negative impacts of HVHF in the form of increased truck traffic - there are no prohibitions in place, no mitigating factors, and no offset for the cost of damage to roads, bridges, traffic crowding other users off the road, car repairs and damage to windshields.
Most insidiously, there is no offset for the loss in property values for buildings along trucking routes, nor is this taken accurately into account in the Socio Economic study.
See for instance, http://my.brainshark.com/Frack-Truck-Convoys-By-Chip-Northrup-142091865
- The DEC has no ability to enforce regulations over trucking, since it has no authority to control truck routes or enter into road use agreements with drillers. Only the towns, counties and cities have that authority.
Other agencies, notably NYSDOT, have looked into the costs to taxpayers for repairing damaged roads and bridges. See their analysis of the unfunded cost of repairs to state and local roads, http://williamahuston.blogspot.com/2011/07/wow-leaked-dec-document-on.html
- No counties and few towns have enacted road use ordinance in New York State, although such ordinances are lawful at the county, town or village level, and will be imperative for HvHF to proceed without devastating local roads without compensation from the industry. http://my.brainshark.com/Road-Use-Ordinances-in-New-York-224232466
- Frack trucks are notorious scofflaws that speed on their way to and from the well site and use sub-standard equipment. http://www.sungazette.com/page/content.detail/id/556302.html
- Drilling and fracking trucks tend to speed to and from the well site. This has lead to some catastrophic spills and accidents in the hilly rural roads of NE Pennsylvania. http://www.rocket-courier.com/news/content/drilling-truck-crash-kills-one-pipeline-construction-disgorges-mud-creek
In New York state, shale gas exploration can result in a form of economic roulette - meaning many home owners get gassed wells and reduced property values, while a minority of land owners benefit - to the detriment of their neighbors: "gasland roulette," and the majority of voters stand to lose - in an industrialization that is entirely speculative. http://www.ogfj.com/index/article-display/7473377105/articles/oil-gas-financial-journal/unconventional/playing-a_smart_shale.html This does not have to be the case. Proper regulations can keep shale gas exploration from ruining property values, destroying village centers, and polluting groundwater. The benefits of shale gas have been overstated by the DEC on the order of 5x or more. http://www.scribd.com/doc/65070417/SGEIS-Socioeconomic-Hype The economic report fails to state what its assumptions are - meaning it fails to state what reserve estimates it is based on, but the analysis is clearly based on erroneous assumptions, as this report details http://www.scribd.com/doc/68519448/NY-Gas-Reserve-Estimateshttp://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Hydrofracking-a-boom-bust-endeavor-1971392.php . Results from Pennsylvania indicate that much of the Southern Tier will be the subject of prospecting for natural gas, but not necessarily the production of gas. http://articles.philly.com/2011-06-28/news/29713011_1_test-wells-marcellus-shale-production-rates . Indeed, production from the Marcellus may be limited to just three counties. http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20110809/BUSINESS/108090311 This would repeat the pattern of the development of other shales - the overstatement of the area that may be productive, followed by a collapse into pockets of productivity. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8212 The rewards in New York are speculative and have been grossly overstated. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/business/s_753018.html#ixzz1Vx6eYWBz
If HVHF development is allowed as proposed by the DEC, New York State would effectively become a colony of out-of-state gas producers, with questionable long term benefits for most areas. http://www.scribd.com/doc/63379732/Gas-Drilling-Economics Meaning most of the value of the gas would leave the state either lightly taxed or untaxed, most of the cost of the well would go to suppliers and manufacturers outside of the state, and some if not most of the gas will be exported out of the state, including shipment overseas. http://my.brainshark.com/Frackonomics-In-New-York-By-Chip-Northrup-900192077http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/business/s_753018.html#ixzz1Vx6eYWBz
- Gas Production is Tax Exempt in New York - which means that there is no money to pay for damaged state roads, DEC enforcement or mitigation. The DEC is in complete denial on the lack of funding.
New York is one of only two states and one of the few places in the world that does not tax gas at the wellhead.http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=12674] So the State gets no direct revenue from the activity, and the DEC has no funding source to regulate it. Nor is there any incentive for the State to monitor gas production, which means that production is sell-reported for ad valorem tax valuations. http://www.scribd.com/doc/63145742/NYSeveranceTax
- Decreased (Surface) Property Values
The economic impact of mineral rights is inversely proportional to property rights. The more drilling there is, the less housing, and surface rights are worth. This can be quantified in New York town by town, county by county, as illustrated in this paper: http://www.scribd.com/doc/63144744/Fiscal-Effects-of-Gas-Drilling-in-Otsego-County-NY-8-15-11-Final
- Mortgages - Gas leases and gas drilling can negatively impact residential mortgages.http://www.toxicstargeting.com/MarcellusShale/documents/impact-on-lending-tompkins-trust-powerpoint
The number of jobs for locals has been consistently overstated by the industry and industry funded researchers.http://keystoneresearch.org/media-center/press-releases/marcellus-shale-boom-adds-less-10000-pa-jobs The economic impact studies rarely quantify the loss in surface property values or "flight capital" from counties where drilling occurs. http://thedailyreview.com/news/penn-state-study-shows-more-modest-economic-impact-from-shale-gas-1.1195233
- Increased local costs due to accidents / hospitals / first responders - http://www.scribd.com/doc/63147811/Health-Impacts-of-Fracking
- Rent increases for locals - rentals no transient workers increase rents, which can adversely impact locals who must compete for rental properties.
- Ad Valorem Tax
Like other states, with the ignoble exception of Pennsylvania, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/26/idUS175051+26-Apr-2011+PRN20110426 New York has a local property tax on gas wells, in the form of an ad valorem tax administered by the Office of Real Property Tax Services, (ORPTS) and local county and township appraisers. ORPTS uses a multiplier, the UPV to value the well based on the gas produced. Unfortunately, at this writing, the multiplier for HVHF wells has not be established by the ORPTS. Each county has an equalization rate to be applied, which might be of some relevance for real estate. but has no relevance for gas wells - so some counties may be "short-changed" on the value of the wells.
Contrary to common mythology among gas boosters, the ad valorem tax is not a production - or "severance" tax tied to the gas produced and paid directly to the state based on the gas produced. http://www.scribd.com/doc/63145368/NYPropertyTax New York has no production or severance tax on gas - making it one of only two gas producing states without one - again the ignominious exception is Pennsylvania, which has been effectively colonized by out-of-state gas companies -all from states where a severance tax and property tax on gas well is standard.
- Loss of revenue from tourism, hunting, fishing, agriculture - drilling,fracking and trucking adversely impact hunting, tourism, and farming operations.
Property Rights, Home Rule, and Informed Consent
* Forced Pooling / Compulsory Integration. New York has the worst compulsory integration practices in the US. http://www.scribd.com/doc/74790533/Compulsory-Integration-in-New-York
Forced pooling should not be applicable to the laterals of horizontally hydrofracked wells - beyond the distance "drained" of the lateral absent forced pooling. NYS law should be amended to clarify that. To date, July '11, the legislature has not acted on that. The DEC should not issue HVHF wells that entail forced pooling into property not "drained" by the end of the lateral on the property that is not subject to compulsory pooling. For a more detailed discussion, see http://www.un-naturalgas.org/Is%20your%20unleased%20property%20facing%20200908181.pdf and http://my.brainshark.com/Compulsory-Pooling-of-Horizontal-Wells-134334393
- Forced Lease Extensions
While these are not addressed by the DEC, they should be brought to the DEC and AG's attention as part of the well permitting process.http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/23/nyregion/hydrofracking-leases-subject-of-regrets-in-new-york.html?_r=1&emc=tnt&tntemail1=y So they are the proper subject to comment to the DEC and AG - since the DEC should not issue a permit if the lease is subject to a forced extension. See for instance http://fleased.org/
- Non-disclosure agreements
Non-disclosure agreements are standard in many contracts. They are not standard and should be avoided if they put the mineral rights owner (or landowner) at a legal disadvantage in case there is a problem with the well. In such instances, the landowner may waive rights that they otherwise have. The NY AG should look into such practices, which are all too common in shale gas exploration. No drilling permit should be issued on a lease that has an unconscionable non-disclosure agreement.
- Eminent Domain
Eminent domain can only be invoked by a public entity. Increasingly, it is being used for private purposes - in the case of gas gathering systems that may "pretend" to be utilities and compulsory pooling.
- Split Estate
The "split estate" refers to the separation of mineral rights from surface or land rights. Once the mineral rights are sold, conflicts can arise with the surface rights owner. If the mineral rights are developed (a well drilled) the value of the surface rights can be negatively impacted. If a split estate, the surface property owner should be notified of any drilling permit applications.
- Threats to Democracy and Home Rule. The DEC has and should defer to local land use ordinances http://www.scribd.com/doc/63141534/New-York-Gas-Well-Zoning
Most oil and gas states are also "home rule'" states, meaning well locations are subject to local land use ordinances. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa5447/is_200404/ai_n21349136/?tag=content;col1 See "Home Rule" and 188.8.131.52. The "Home Rule" bills in the Legislature, http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S5830-2011 seek to bring New York into the main stream on applying local land use to well locations. http://www.scribd.com/doc/63141534/NYzoning and to clarify a municipality's legal rights in regard to land use controls.http://www.otsego2000.org/documents/FellerfinalMemoGasDrilling.pdf
State Regulatory Resources (or lack thereof)
* The DEC has never adequately regulated gas wells, due to a chronic lack of staff and lack of rules and regulations http://www.scribd.com/doc/76085928/Worst-Practices-at-the-DEC
- The DEC only has a "baker's dozen" of employees to handle the thousands of wells in the state, much less the thousands of new wells the proposed regulations would allow. The former commissioner of the DEC was fired after he complained about the lack of resources and staffing cuts. http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/DEC-commissioner-fired-after-layoff-memo-leak-717567.php The state has no money from gas production, since it has no severance tax. So the state has no direct source of funding to pay for increasing inspections and mitigation measures. In that sense, the proposed regulations are largely ineffectual - since the DEC will not be able to adequately enforce them to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens.
Critique By Section
Chapter 0 - What's Missing
1. Funding to offset costs to the State - No new funding sources have been identified at the state Level. New York is one of the few places in the world where gas it not taxed at the well-head. http://www.scribd.com/doc/63145742/NYSeveranceTax
1.1. Funding to pay for regulating the activity, staffing, enforcement - New York has no funding to regulate the activity. 1.2 Funding for paying for damage to state roads, traffic enforcement - New York has no funding to pay for damages to state, county or town roads. 1.3 Funding for clean up of spills, etc. - none at the state, county or township level,
2. Inclusion of other State Agencies - No other state agencies have been included in the dSGEIS process
* 2.1 DOT/ Truck traffic - DOT has no new funding sources to deal with the hundred millions dollar damages to roads and bridges. The DEC has no authority over trucking. http://www.scribd.com/doc/74102302/New-York-Shale-Gas-Road-Impact
- 2.2 AG - the AG has been silent regarding key aspects of the activity - such as the use of compulsory pooling
* Controller - the Controller has pointed out the deficiencies of the dSGEIS - http://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/dec11/DEC_martens_letter.pdf 2.4 ORPTS - the state has no ad valorem (property tax) valuation methodology for horizontal shale wells. http://www.scribd.com/doc/63145368/NYPropertyTax
- 2.3 DOH - the DOH has not been engaged in any health impact studies - hence, there are none available to the DEC.
3. Inclusion of County or Town Governments - There is no process to Include county, city or town government in the dSGEIS draft process
4. Earthquakes -
- Earthquakes are induced by frack waste injection wells: http://www.watershedsentinel.ca/print/255 and by fracking shale:http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/news/local/drilling_did_cause_earthquake_1_3876146
- US Army Corps of Engineers fear fracking may hurt dams: http://www.eiu.com/index.asp?layout=ib3Article&article_id=448339429&pubtypeid=1142462499&country_id=1530000153&page_title&rf=0
- Fracking could have caused East Coast earthquake: http://rt.com/usa/news/fracking-earthquake-virginia-dc-817-061/
- Arkansas earthquakes may be due to fracking or injection wells: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/03/01/fracking-earthquakes-arkansas-man-experts-warn/
5. Health Impacts - the DOH is a no-show in this process, to its discredit. http://www.scribd.com/doc/63147811/Health-Impacts-of-Fracking
Chapter 1 - Introduction
This draft of the SGEIS, is, in many ways, a significant improvement over previous drafts which were grossly flawed http://www.otsego2000.org/documents/v1_NicoleCommentsFinal.pdf, both of which were essentially warmed-over variants of the 1993 GEIS, which is a notoriously flawed document. http://www.otsego2000.org/documents/DSGEISCommentLtr123009.pdf
Local land use ordinances are acknowledged for the first time. Since the DEC acknowledges them, a town or city is better off with such ordinances than without them. Absent local land use, drilling sites could be located anywhere and everywhere in a community, as this map of Bradford County, Pa. indicates. http://www.bradfordcountypa.org/Natural-Gas.asp?specifTab=2
- 1.7.5 Land Planning Documents
"Applications would compare the proposed wellpad location to local land use laws, regulations, plans and policies to determine if the proposed activity is consistent with these. If the applicant or local government informs the DEC of a conflict in this regard, the DEC would request additional information in considering whether significant adverse impacts relating to land us and zoning would result from permit issuance."
'The DEC, for the first time, acknowledges that it will take local land use ordinances into consideration in reviewing a well permit applications.'184.108.40.206 Your response should mention this as a necessary and sensible step forward, since the use of local land use ordinances to control well locations is the norm in most other states. in particular the states where some of the major shale gas companies are headquartered - ie. Texas. http://www.scribd.com/doc/63141534/NYzoning
* The DEC should make it clear that it will defer to local land use ordinances http://www.scribd.com/doc/76438692/Shale-Gas-Impacts-on-Communities Additionally, because the DEC is now recognizing Home Rule power, it is urgent that you petition your local community and build support to get your city council or town boards to pass land use (zoning) laws, road use laws, and/or prohibitions of undesirable activities. For help, contact attorneys Helen and David Slottje at Community Environmental Defense Council, Inc. (CEDC) http://www.cedclaw.org/
The dSGEIS states that impacts on community character, defined by the DEC as the economic, demographic and social characteristics of the affected communities, are expected to be significant. But the dSGEIS states that the determination of whether these impacts are positive or negative cannot be made and that any attempt to do so would be subjective anyway. Numerous court cases on the community character issue have outlined a proper level of analysis. The SEQR regulations are explicit that “creation of a material conflict with a community’s current plans or goals as officially approved or adopted” or “the impairment...of community...character” are significant adverse effects in the context of a significance determination. To adequately assess impacts on community character, there needs to be documentation and an evaluation of communities that have adopted comprehensive plans and zoning regulations. This information is readily available from another State agency here. http://www.dos.state.ny.us/lg/publications/Rural_Resource_Survey.pdf The dSGEIS states that assessing impacts on community character is subjective. But once affected communities have been identified and using readily available information, an assessment can be made as to whether HVHF is compatible with a community’s goals. The Middlefield Land Use Analysis should provide some ideas for assessing impacts on community character. http://www.greenplan.org/GREENPLAN_Website/Our_Work/Entries/2011/6/14_Land_Use_Analysis__Gas_Drilling_%26_Fracking.html
Lastly, you should support clarification of Home Rule as it applies to drilling under New York law. Several bills have been introduced to bring New York in line with other states in regard to local controls over drilling activities, in order to insure that the regulatory authorities of cities and towns will not be overlooked. See for instance; http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S5830-2011
- 1.8 Additional Precautionary Measures
New York City reservoirs went from having no special protections in the first draft, to SEQR reviews in the 2nd draft, to an outright ban in this draft - due, ostensibly to their lack of sedimentation filters. No municipal water system and no private water wells in the state are capable of removing the known and unknown chemicals from fracking flowback, drilling fluid or drilling mud - so the fact that some municipal water systems have sedimentation filters is largely irrelevant to this type of pollution. http://220.127.116.11/documents/10sep21_McIntyre-DrinkingWaterinWatersheds.pdf All drinking water sources should be treated the same under the law.
- Disparate Treatment of Drinking Water - HVHF "is not consistent with the preservation of these (NYC or Syracuse) watersheds as an unfiltered drinking water supply." HVHF is therefore not consistent with the preservation of watersheds supplying unfiltered drinking water to thousands of private wells http://www.scribd.com/doc/66390117/SGEIS-Aquifers
* The DEC should treat all drinking water sources equally http://www.scribd.com/doc/76434098/DEC-s-Disparate-Treatment-of-Water
- GEIS as artifact - The Revised Draft sGEIS does not include the GEIS, though it is still applicable to vertical wells, flawed, and without any definitive regulations.
* The GEIS was deemed flawed when it was reviewed 18 years ago http://www.scribd.com/doc/76085928/Worst-Practices-at-the-DEC
Chapter 2 - Description of Proposed Action
Contrary to popular belief, the SGEIS is not a set of rules and regulations. They are not a clear set of rules to be followed, but simply "guidelines" subject to interpretation and subject to being ignored. Until the DEC has a written set of regulations for permitting HVHF wells, no permits should be issued. http://www.scribd.com/doc/76085928/Worst-Practices-at-the-DEC
The DEC has proposed a set of regulations for fracking shale. See this site for more details on how to comment before December 12th http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Fracking_Regulations
The DEC estimates it will permit 1,600 HVHF wells a year for 30 years, but it fails to address what its own budgetary and staffing requirements are to undertake this task. Nor does it address the impact of the proposed activities on other agencies, such as DOT, DOH or the AG. The DEC has neither the staffing nor the funding to adequately regulate oil and gas production in the state now, as evidenced by its inability to plug the thousands of existing abandoned oil and gas wells. There is no reason to believe that the DEC will be able to enforce any of these proposed regulations, or indeed that the proposed SGEIS will even be reduced to a set of clear regulations that can be implemented and enforced effectively from Albany and a few understaffed field offices.
Chapter 3 - Proposed SEQR Review Process
- 18.104.22.168 Distances -
* The setback of a gas well in New York are the worst in the United States - http://www.scribd.com/doc/72545747/Worst-Fracking-Regs
- The setbacks proposed by the DEC are primarily from water sources - and these setbacks are transparently based on political science, not hydrology.
The DEC proposes no new setbacks for shale gas wells from houses. So the setbacks remain at 100 feet from a house or 150 from a school as per the '92 GEIS. Section 17.A. 1. B. 1. b.
- A meaningful setback of a gas well from a house would be on the order of 750 to 1,000 feet, as it is under zoning ordinances out West.
- The DEC's token setbacks are a perfect argument in favor of local zoning to control gas well locations - or the prohibition thereof.
- The greatest distance proposed for a setback from a shale gas well is from an abandoned oil and gas wells- one mile:
"Distance from the surface location of the proposed well to the surface location of any existing well that is listed in the Department’s Oil & Gas Database 12 or any other abandoned well identified by property owners or tenants within a) the spacing unit of the proposed well and/or b) within 1 mile (5,280 feet) of the proposed well location, whichever results in the greatest number of wells."
This is so that the lateral section of the shale gas well does not frack the well bore of the abandoned gas well - causing it to "fountain" up into groundwater - where it is probably already leaking.
- This underscores the fact that the DEC does not address surface uses - and have said as much repeatedly in the past. http://www.scribd.com/doc/63141534/NY-Gas-Well-Zoning
- 22.214.171.124 Local Planning Documents -
The DEC requires the permit applicant to show whether the proposed well site is effected by local land use ordinances. While this is new to this draft, such a requirement would be common practice in most oil and gas producing states, where local land use controls. http://www.scribd.com/doc/63141534/NYzoning
- 3.3 Regulations -
Regulations were never written for the 1992 GEIS, of which this is a monstrous "supplement". Therefore, there are no "regulations" per se. The permitting process is subject to the whims of the DEC staff. There are only 17 staff for Division of Mineral Resources to oversee 14,000 + active wells and new permits.
* The lack of rules and regulations has been a chronic problem at the DEC http://www.scribd.com/doc/76085928/Worst-Practices-at-the-DEC
Chapter 4 - Geology
For an overview of the geology of shale deposits in New York, see http://treichlerlawoffice.com/radiation/HillNY.pdf
- 4.1 Introduction
The productivity of horizontally hydrofracked wells has been routinely overstated in every field that they have been drilled since the technique was first widely commercialized in the Austin Chalk oil field in Central Texas. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8212 This is probably the worst kept "secret" in the industry. But is a truism that must be brought to people's attention every time a new shale field is "discovered" by the laity. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7075 The overstatement or "hype" can be both spatial - by geographic extent of acreage held by a drilling company (typically in order to boost their share price) or temporally, as to the expected life of the well, again to overstate their Proven Undeveloped reserves (PUD). http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/30/us/30gas.html?_r=2&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23 The extent of the Marcellus's productivity has been consistently overstated by shale gas boosters, and this has warped the way it is viewed by the DEC. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/business/s_753018.html
- The DEC has ignored the fact that Marcellus and Utica "fairway" are not where they are supposed to be http://www.scribd.com/doc/74614768/Norse-Energy-and-Gastem-USA-Voodoo-Frackonomics
- 4.7 Naturally Occurring Methane
Whether methane occurs naturally or not in groundwater is not in dispute. What the DEC ignores is the data that drilling often mobilizes methane into groundwater, and that this is a common side-effect of drilling in some areas. There is no clear solution to preventing drilling from infusing drinking water with methane, despite industry denials to the contrary. http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/stray-gas-plagues-nepa-marcellus-wells-1.1173187 The DEC completely misinterprets the results of the Duke study on methane contamination from drilling http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/cgc/index.html by first putting it in this section, and secondly misreading the data itself - implying that methane contamination by drilling is an anomaly, when the data shows that it is the norm, and that when gas wells are drilled near shallow water wells, the drilling is likely to contaminate the wells - even in Texas drilling where shallow water wells are uncommon in shale gas areas. http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/06/23/3175947/parker-county-couple-sues-range.html See also Comments on SGEIS page 19. http://tinyurl.com/NorthrupSGEIS0711a
* The DEC has gone out of its way to deny what the industry knows - gas well leak from the outside up, before leaking from the inside out. http://www.scribd.com/doc/65577477/How-Gas-Wells-Leak
* The DEC has discounted peer reviewed studies based on outliers - which turned out to be mischaracterized - http://www.scribd.com/doc/73405864/Anomaly-in-the-Duke-Methane-Study
Chapter 5 - Natural Gas Development Activities & High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing
- 5.13.1 Cuttings from Drilling
Shale is inherently radioactive - that is how it is identified when a well is logged with a gamma ray meter. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formation_evaluation_gamma_ray The level of radioactivity varies, it is not uniform throughout the shale. Radioactivity cannot be determined based on a few museum samples, the cuttings have to be tested. http://www.scribd.com/doc/64407403/Radioactive-Waste-Management Disposal of mud cuttings should only be allowed in landfills that are permitted to take radioactive material. http://www.dcbureau.org/20101123992/bulldog-blog/pennsylvania-gas-drillers-dumping-radioactive-waste-in-new-york.html
- 5.13.3 Flowback Water
* There is no safe and economical way to get rid of fracking flowback in New York - http://www.scribd.com/doc/65435029/SGEIS-Fracking-Flowback
Fracking wastewater is both toxic and radioactive. http://www.propublica.org/article/is-the-marcellus-shale-too-hot-to-handle-1109 .There are no safe disposal methods in New York for frack flowback water. The lack of such facilities must be addressed before permits for HVHF wells can be issued. http://nywea.org/gac/HFSCEvaluatingAcceptability.pdf The lack of such facilities has forced fracking contractors to take flowback to municipal treatment plants - which are not equipped to treat it, and to spread it on the roads as "de-icer".http://www.marcellus-shale.us/drilling_wastewater.htm
- 126.96.36.199 Injection Wells
The DEC fails to note that there are only 6 permitted injection wells in the state, only 3 of which take fracking flowback. http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/29856.html Texas has almost 12,000 such frack waste disposal wells. Even the Feds know that, absent injection wells, there are no safe ways to get rid of fracking flowback. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/opinion/sunday/the-debate-on-fracturing.html?_r=1&ref=opinion
- 5.17 Well Plugging - The number of unplugged wells in New York is a disgrace. The state has no money to plug them. So they rust, leaving pathways for pollution into ground water. The SGEIS does not adequately address the chronic problem of well abandonment. The DEC's proposed regulations would exempt drillers from posting a bond to plug wells less than 6,000 feet in total (vertical and horizontal) depth. It would also cap the multiple well liability. meaning no bond required on more than 8 wells per operator.
There are thousands of abandoned, unplugged oil and gas "orphaned" wells in New York. http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Energy-busts-create-mess-801773.php And the DEC has no funds to plug any of them properly, so they will rust and become pathways for pollution into the groundwater. http://www.propublica.org/article/deteriorating-oil-and-gas-wells-threaten-drinking-water-homes-across-the-co . The DEC has not addressed this existing problem and side-steps how to deal with the plugging of HVHF shale wells, which can have notoriously short productive lives. The longevity of shale wells is consistently overstated by the industry. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/30/us/30gas.html?_r=2&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23 And once the original driller has produced what they can, the wells are sold to smaller operators, who will list them as "shut in" and walk away from them. The plugging expense proposed by a the DEC, $5,000 would not cover the cost of properly engineering a plugging operation of a HVHF well, much less cover the costs of plugging it properly, which would be on the order of $100,000 or 20x the amount proposed by the DEC.
Chapter 6 - Potential Environmental Impacts
The DEC mentions most of the impacts, but does not resolve some of the most significant impacts of shale gas industrialization, such as the gassing of groundwater by drilling http://www.scribd.com/doc/66390117/SGEIS-Aquifers or the lack of disposal facilities for frack waste flowback. Some of the most significant impacts, notably those from the massive amounts of trucking, are simply mentioned - in tedious detail, because the DEC asserts no authority over trucking, nor does it propose any regulations. Some of the fundamental impacts, such as groundwater pollution, are glossed over or discounted in a perfunctory manner. Most of the impacts are left to the towns and cities to address via local ordinances.
- 6.1.4 Groundwater Impacts Associated with Well Drilling and Construction - Drilling gas wells releases gas into groundwater. http://www.scribd.com/doc/65577477/How-Gas-Wells-Leak The drilling process introduces drilling fluids into groundwater and commonly mobilizes methane into groundwater and surface water. http://www.scribd.com/doc/65079406/SGEIS-Water-Setbacks Methane renders water non-potable and, in high enough concentrations, kills aquatic life. The only practical solution to this is to keep drilling away from shallow water wells, surface water and aquifers. Peer reviewed studies indicate the proper set-back would be in excess of 1,000 meters. See 188.8.131.52 http://www.pnas.org/content/108/20/8172.full As wells age, they leak, then rust, creating pathways for gas and materials downhole to rise into groundwater. Elevated pressures outside of the production stream increase with age - indicating that the string is leaking. http://www.scribd.com/doc/65704543/Casing-Leaks There are thousands of abandoned wells already in New York, and the DEC has no capability to properly plug them. Over time, they will all leak into groundwater and aquifers. http://www.propublica.org/article/deteriorating-oil-and-gas-wells-threaten-drinking-water-homes-across-the-co
- 6.1.7 Waste Transport Until proven otherwise, fracking flowback should be classified as hazardous waste.
- 184.108.40.206 Publicly Owned Treatment Works - There is no evidence that any POWT in the state is equipped to treat fracking flowback from HVHF wells. POWTs should be prohibited for taking frack flowback from such wells. This is the law in other states and should be the law in New York.
- 220.127.116.11 Private Offsite Wastewater Treatment and/or Reuse Facilities - Such facilities would generate an inordinate amount of truck traffic - including trucks carrying hazardous cargo in the form of recycled fracking flowback.
- 18.104.22.168 Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) Considerations - Cuttings -This is one of the few places that the DEC addresses the problems of radioactive waste from shale gas industrialization. The DEC fails to adequately address problems associated with other more concentrated forms of radiation, such as recycled frack flowback, treated waste water - which concentrates the residuals into a radioactive sludge, or radon gas vented from gas separators, or vented from gas processing plants in the field. http://www.scribd.com/doc/64407403/Radioactive-Waste-Management
- 6.6 Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Opening statement not from a peer-reviews scientific journal, but from an industry source, using 15 year old data. The peer reviewed data from Cornell study is effectively ignored. http://www.eeb.cornell.edu/howarth/Marcellus.html 100 year time horizon apparently chosen because 20 year time horizon numbers are far worse. (Ingraffea, 7-25-11) Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, when burned it produces carbon dioxide, which is also a greenhouse gas, so shale gas industrialization is a textbook way to increase global warming, regardless of the size of its carbon footprint vs. coal; with which it is on par, at best. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=switching-to-natural-gas-power&page=2
- Table 6-16 from Chesapeake study says that the estimated first year greenhouse emissions from a single vertical well are more than those from a horizontal well. This is clearly an error. Also, the same table says that from 4 wells, the emissions are not 4x, but less than 2x. Another clear error. (Ingraffea, 7-25-11)
- Estimations of methane migration here are vastly underestimated. (Ingraffea, 7-25-11) http://www.tcgasmap.org/media/Ingraffea%20Slides%207-25-11.pdf
- "Q: How many incidents of methane migration to the surface have been detected?" This question has not been addressed by the SGEIS. (Ingraffea, 7-25-11) http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2011/01/05/shale-quebec-bape.html
- 6.7 Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials in the Marcellus Shale - Frack waste processing concentrates radioactive materials in flowback to a highly radioactive sludge. There are no disposal wells in New York to get rid of any of this material. Reuse of flowback simply increases the radioactivity of the frack waste with each reuse. Reuse simply delays the problem of disposing of the radioactive waste. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. When radon is removed from natural gas, it is vented. It is heavier than air, so it sinks creating a hazard. The state is clearly incapable of dealing with the amount of radioactive material generated by shale gas industrialization. http://www.scribd.com/doc/64407403/Radioactive-Waste-Management
6.8 Socio Economic Impacts - The economic estimates - jobs, ad valorem taxes, etc. - are grossly overstated, since the consultant's economic impact study was done based on gas reserves estimates that were 5 times greater than current estimates. It assumes well life of 30 years - which is off by a factor of 3. Reserve estimates were revised downwards by the USGS based on results in Pennsylvania, and were announced on August 24 - after the DEC's socio-economic report was completed. The economic analysis fails to state what reserve estimates it is based on. But it clearly overstates the amount of recoverable reserves. http://www.scribd.com/doc/68519448/NY-Gas-Reserve-Estimates
- The economic analysis fails to take into consideration the full extent of the negative effects on other businesses.
- 22.214.171.124 Representative Regions - "Geological data on the extent and thickness of the low-permeability shale in New York State, including the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale fairways, were the basis for these assumptions." The economic impact analysis was done based on data that substantially overstated the recoverable reserves in the Marcellus. Data that was revised after the economic analysis was complete. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/business/s_753018.html The DEC does not state which reserves estimates were used in the economic analysis, but they are likely from the EIA/ DOE estimates, which came out earlier in the year, but which are now discredited. So the economic benefit of shale gas industrialization is grossly overstated in the SGEIS. The economic impacts of shale gas industrialization happen town by town, municipality by municipality, not by "representative regions", as inferred by the DEC. http://www.scribd.com/doc/63144744/Fiscal-Effects-of-Gas-Drilling-in-Otsego-County-NY-8-15-11-Final This argues for local control over well locations, local control over set-backs, and local control for road use, steep slope development, and tree ordinances. This is how drilling is addressed in other states, both at the municipal level and county level. See, for instance Santa Fe Counties land use ordinance as it pertains to drilling. http://www.santafecounty.org/county_attorney/oilandgas or the town of Middlefield's land use analysis. http://www.greenplan.org/GREENPLAN_Website/Our_Work/Entries/2011/6/14_Land_Use_Analysis__Gas_Drilling_%26_Fracking.html
- 6.10 Noise - This section, like the ones on truck traffic and light pollution are, for all practical purposes, regulatory whitewash, boiler-plate - since the DEC proposes no regulatory control or standards over noise, trucking or light pollution, nor does it refer to or defer to local ordinances on the matter. The regulation of noise is the proper function of a municipal noise ordinance. If a drilling operation is not in compliance with such an ordinance - despite the assertions to the contrary by the DEC in this section 6.10, the drilling operator will be subject to a fine because noise pollution is local matter, to be addressed by local laws. Any town reading this boilerplate is left to conclude that they must adopt a noise ordinance and enforce it.
- 6.11 Transportation Impacts - Shale gas industrialization requires massive amounts of trucks. Despite all the boiler-plate in this section, the DEC asserts no authority to impose road use permit fees on drilling operations - the towns and counties have that authority. The DEC has no authority to regulate local roads, the towns and counties do. The DOT has no funds to pay for the expected damage to state roads and bridges; there is no revenue source in the state budget to offset these costs. Any town reading this section is left to conclude that they must adopt a road use plan and a road use permitting ordinance.
Chapter 7 - Mitigation Measures
- 126.96.36.199 Drilling Fluids
In the past drilling fluid or "mud" has contained asbestos powder. Recovered drilling mud contain drill cuttings from the shale which, by definition, have elevated levels of radioactivity. No open pits for drilling mud should be permitted.
- 188.8.131.52 Mitigation of impact @ 6.1.4 (methane migration) by use of new third cement casing. Additional casings will not prevent drilling from introducing methane into groundwater. Gas often channels up on the outside of the outermost casing between the casing and the surrounding rock, see illustration below entitled "Poor Zonal Isolation". So no additional casings will prevent the outermost casing from channeling gas upwards where it will render drinking water unpotable. http://www.scribd.com/doc/65577477/SGEIS-Well-Construction
A third casing is not new, nor has it proved to prevent gas migration. "How can something they're already using prevent something which is already happening?" (Ingraffea 7-25-11) http://www.tcgasmap.org/media/Ingraffea%20Slides%207-25-11.pdf . A 3rd string (between the surface casing and production casing has not "solved" gas migration into groundwater. A 3rd string is not a panacea. There is no statistical evidence that it works at all. http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2011/01/05/shale-quebec-bape.html Even if leaks from the production casing are contained/ retarded, gas can channel up on the outside of the outermost casings. So you could have 5 casings (some Pa. wells already do) and still get gas migration up into groundwater. Pressure gradients are funny that well. So are dissimilar rates of expansion/ contraction between steel tubing and concrete. And imperfect bonds between concrete casings and the surrounding rocks as shown below, allows gas to channel up on the outside of the outermost casing. All these imperfections enable gas to channel into groundwater. Accordingly, methane contamination is not uncommon, even among new gas wells with multiple casings. http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/dep-investigating-methane-contamination-in-susquehanna-county-1.1192677
- 184.108.40.206 Drilling and Production Waste Tracking Form
The DEC proposes to "track" waste disposal via self-reporting. Tracking will not work without adequate supervision because there is not enough DEC staff to monitor it. Since the closest disposal wells are in Ohio, the DEC would be put in a position of tracking frack waste out of state, across two state lines, beyond its jurisdiction. There is no place in New York to dispose of frack waste water. http://www.scribd.com/doc/65435029/SGEIS-Fracking-Flowback
- 7.8 Protecting Visual Resources - Unless required a condition of obtaining a drilling permit, it is not clear how the DEC proposes to protect visual resources. This can most effectively be done by a local land use (zoning) ordinances. The DEC in the latest revision §1.7.5 has for the first time recognized Home Rule with regards to zoning ordinances for land use, and that "Applications would compare the proposed wellpad location to local land use laws, regulations, plans and policies to determine if the proposed activity is consistent with these. If the applicant or local government informs the DEC of a conflict in this regard, the DEC would request additional information in considering whether significant adverse impacts relating to land us and zoning would result from permit issuance." However, nothing in this is binding upon the DEC.
- 7.9 Mitigating Noise and Light Impacts - Unless a clear regulation that is a condition of permitting, this should be the subject of local noise ordinances, since enforcement of municipal noise ordinances is local, not within the DEC's authority. However, the danger here is that regulating noise, as in "quiet hours between 11pm at night and 8am" will likely be considered regulation of the activity, which may be preempted by state law, which is in need of a court ruling or legislative clarification in the Home Rule Bills, such as http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S5830-2011 If the driller ignored local noise or light pollution ordinances, that would put the DEC on the side of noise and light polluters, to the detriment of the health, safety and welfare of the citizenry. On balance, since the DEC proposes no light and noise pollution standards, nor is it capable of enforcing such standards, a town is better off enforcing noise and light pollution standards, in anticipation of a judicial or legislative clarification of how these can be applied to the activity. http://www.scribd.com/doc/65111612/SGEIS-Noise-Impacts
- 7.10 Mitigating Community Character Impacts - This can best be done via local land use ordinances. It is presumptuous for the DEC to think it can do local land planning or enforce what are inherently local ordinances from Albany.http://www.scribd.com/doc/65308566/SGEIS-Community-Impacts
- 220.127.116.11 Development of Transportation Plans, Baseline Surveys, and Traffic Studies - Since the DEC has no jurisdiction over state, county or town roads, this section reads largely as boilerplate. http://www.scribd.com/doc/76437212/Frack-Truck-Impacts-on-Towns The applicant should be required to show that they have entered into a road use agreement with the county and town or demonstrate that the county and town have no such permitting and routing ordinances in place. As written, the applicant could get a well permit while ignoring local laws governing road use. Since the state and DEC have no authority to enter into road use agreements, the county and towns must be included in this process, since the DEC cannot enforce road routing and use permits. At a minimum, the DEC should require the applicant to show that they have entered into a county and town road use agreement prior to issuing the drilling permit.
Chapter 8 - Permit Process and Regulatory Coordination
- 18.104.22.168 Local Government Notification - The DEC, for the first time, states that it will notify local governments when a well application is filed - not after the fact. While a step forward, this is short of the Home Rule protections in other states, where the applicant would have to get permission to drill from the local municipality or county. However, the DEC should clearly state that it will defer to local ordinances. http://www.scribd.com/doc/76438692/Shale-Gas-Impacts-on-Communities
- 22.214.171.124 Road Use Agreements - The DEC should require the applicant for a drilling permit to show that they have complied with local county and town road use ordinances, if such ordinances are in place, or they should not issue the drilling permit, since the State and DEC have no authority to enter into or enforce such road use agreements, which are the purview of villages, towns, cities and counties. If the applicant is not in compliance with local road ordinances, they should not get the permit.
See 126.96.36.199 Municipal Control over Local Road System
- 188.8.131.52 Local Planning Documents - The DEC acknowledges local land use ordinances - zoning - in granting drilling permits: http://www.scribd.com/doc/76438692/Shale-Gas-Impacts-on-Communities
". . . in order to consider potential significant adverse impacts on land use and zoning as required by SEQRA, the EAF Addendum would require the applicant to identify whether the proposed location of the well pad, or any other activity under the jurisdiction of the Department, conflicts with local land use laws or regulations, plans or policies. The applicant would also be required to identify whether the well pad is located in an area where the affected community has adopted a comprehensive plan or other local land use plan and whether the proposed action is inconsistent with such plan(s)."
Meaning a town or city is better off with a land use plan that addresses shale gas industrialization - than if it has no such comprehensive plan and is at the mercy of how the DEC interprets the SGEIS for their town.
The economic impacts of shale gas industrialization happen town by town, municipality by municipality, not by "representative regions", as inferred by the DEC, no "one size fits all" land use plan. This argues for local control over well locations, local control over set-backs, and local control for noise, road use, steep slope development, and tree ordinances. This is how drilling is addressed in other states, both at the municipal level and county level. Many towns have land use plans that prohibit such industrialization, in accordance with good planning practices. http://www.dos.state.ny.us/lg/publications/Rural_Resource_Survey.pdf Such land use plans are not uncommon in other states, see for instance Santa Fe County's land use ordinance as it pertains to drilling. http://www.santafecounty.org/county_attorney/oilandgas or the town of Middlefield's land use analysis. http://www.greenplan.org/GREENPLAN_Website/Our_Work/Entries/2011/6/14_Land_Use_Analysis__Gas_Drilling_%26_Fracking.html
- 184.108.40.206 Required Hydraulic Fracturing Additive Information The DEC does not require disclosure of materials listed as "trade secrets" - which could include carcinogens and toxins. Such chemicals should be disclosed and banned from use in New York.
Chapter 9 - Alternative Actions
The DEC has merely listed a few alternative actions - including some obvious ones like delaying the permitting of shale gas wells until the completion of the EPA study on shale gas. Or phase-in well permitting. Or formulating the SGEIS into coherent regulations before issuing permits. Or determining how frack waste flowback is going to be disposed of. None of these more rational approaches are being taken.
Chapter 10 - Review of Selected Non-Routine Incidents in Pennsylvania
The DEC made much of its day-trip to Pennsylvania, but evidently learned little, even though problems with Pennsylvania shale gas wells have been studied in some detail. http://www.maryellenscottcmt.com/marcprotest/Risk_Assessment.pdf They evidently did not visit any of the local hospitals. http://www.scribd.com/doc/63147811/Health-Impacts-of-Fracking Pennsylvania has no severance tax on gas production, nor any property taxes on wells,so no funds for enforcement. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/26/idUS175051+26-Apr-2011+PRN20110426 It has banned the disposal of frack waste in municipal treatment plans, which the DEC has apparently ignored. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/us/27gas.html The evidence of methane migration is compelling in Pennsylvania. http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/dep-investigating-methane-contamination-in-susquehanna-county-1.1192677 The problems with truck traffic cannot be ignored, nor can the probability of environmental hazards, overlooked in the exploration for gas. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8212
Chapter 11 - Summary of Potential Impacts and Mitigation Measures
This "chapter" is simply an index of previous information. Unfortunately, like the sections it catalogues, it ignores or glosses over the fundamental impacts, of which no mitigation measures are mentioned. To wit:
1. There are no regulations - the SGEIS is nothing more than a loose set of guidelines. To comment on the proposed regulations, see this site : http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Fracking_Regulations
2. There will be no enforcement of the guidelines, since the DEC does not have the staff or resources to deal with the activity.
3. There are no facilities to permanently dispose of the fracking flowback and produced water in the State of New York. None are available, none are planned.
4. The proposed set-backs from water features are not even based on empirical data, much less "science."
5. The SGEIS guidelines are a de facto industrial land use plan - "one size fits none" - for most of the state west of the Hudson and south of the Mohawk.
From the Executive summary:
"The dSGEIS concludes that HVHF (High volume, hydrofracking) operations would have a significant impact on the environment because such operations have the potential (sic) to draw substantial development into New York, which would result in unavoidable impacts to habitats (fragmentation, loss of connectivity, degradation, etc.), species distributions and populations, and overall natural resource biodiversity. Habitat loss, conversion, and fragmentation (both short-term and longterm) would result from land grading and clearing, and the construction of well pads, roads, pipelines, and other infrastructure associated with gas drilling."
We would agree that such industrial operations would certainly bring these impacts, and many more. The fact that the DEC uses the term "unavoidable impacts" does not help instill public confidence that the DEC can do their job and protect our precious natural resources from corporate industrial incursions. It is up to your to comment on these proposed regulations and copy your comments to your town, county and state elected officials. You can make a difference - if you make the effort. Please contact the editors if you have any comments about the site or its contents.
External Links and Sources
Find and connect with a local group near you!
You may find it beneficial to connect with local people near where you live engaged in this battle to keep our water clean, our air pure, and to preserve the nature of rural communities.
Or Start your own!!
- If you can't find a local group, create your own! Groups like NYRAD, Shaleshock, and ROUSE will help supply you with educational materials.
Audio and Video materials
An excellent source of A/V materials is ShaleShockMedia. http://ShaleShockMedia.org. A non-profit operation, most of their material is online free. DVDs are also available for at-cost or a small donation.
- http://ShaleShockMedia.org # main site
- http://vimeo.com/shaleshock # Vimeo is best for downloading high quality video
- http://www.youtube.com/user/ShaleShock # Youtube has the best streaming, embeddable player
- http://blip.tv/shaleshock-media/ # Blip.TV has the best syndication system / RSS
- http://my.brainshark.com/Search.aspx?slice=1&searchtext=chiptex # A series of narrated Power Points
This is the movie that started it all. Order it online, or organize a local screening.
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