Marcellus Shale Gas Development Update

This year’s key environmental battle is likely to be around the issue of natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale formation across New York’s southern tier using a technique called horizontal gas drilling with hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” As you may know, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released their revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS) in early September 2011 which proposes measures to mitigate the impacts of fracking, as well as a set of draft fracking regulations. The DEC solicited public comments throughout the fall, extending the deadline until January 11, 2012. TU submitted official comments during this period expressing our concern that the revised dSGEIS is woefully inadequate in protecting our state’s coldwater resources. Along with the vast majority of other comments submitted, TU is concerned that the dSGEIS does not take into account the cumulative effects of the proposed massive number of gas wells on water quality and quantity for both drinking water and wildlife. As currently proposed, a well pad could be as close as 150 feet to a native trout stream without any additional review—creating unnecessary risks to New York’s waterways and the aquatic life that rely upon cold, clean water. Additionally, the revised DSGEIS does not provide adequate safeguards with regard to water withdrawals, wastewater disposal and accident mitigation; problems that are all already happening in Pennsylvania.

With every passing week, fracking operations in other parts of the country raise more questions about the safety of this type of gas development. Federal agencies linked fracking to underground water pollution in central Wyoming and the recent unusual earthquakes in Ohio may also be linked to fracking. While TU supports responsible energy development, TU is firmly against allowing this type of development in New York until the state fully evaluates the potential problems with fracking and proposes stronger measures and regulations that will ensure protection of natural resources. Only then can the DEC be sure that will not be allowed to occur at the cost of New York’s valuable and irreplaceable resources.

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