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Fracking Letters

Last week, Toxics Targeting, an environmental advocacy group headquartered in the central part of the state, sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo asking that he withdraw the Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement released by the state DEC for permitting hydrofracking the state’s Marcellus Shale for natural gas. And they’re asking others to sign an online, collective letter to Cuomo making the same demand.

Here’s the organization’s argument:

DEC’s RD SGEIS fails to fulfill the mandate of Executive Order No. 41. First and foremost, it is based on the erroneous assertion that:

“No documented instances of groundwater contamination are recorded in the Department’s files from previous horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing projects in New York. No documented incidents of groundwater contamination in public water supply systems were reported by the NYSDOH central office and Rochester district office…References have been made to some reports of private well contamination in Chautauqua County in the 1980s that may be attributed to oil and gas drilling…The reported Chautauqua County incidents, the majority of which occurred in the 1980s and which pre-date the current casing and cementing practices and fresh water aquifer supplementary permit conditions, could not be substantiated because pre-drilling water quality testing was not conducted, improper tests were run which yielded inconclusive results and/or the incidents of alleged well contamination were not officially confirmed.”

This statement is factually incorrect and deliberately misleading. Hundreds of natural gas and oil drilling, hydrofracturing and related problems have reportedly impacted private water wells, homes and the environment in New York. Those problems are documented by DEC as well as health authorities in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties.

As evidence, they offer the Ferrugia family, who live near Jamestown and have not been able to drink water their well water since 2007, after a gas well was drilled about 300 feet from their house:

Their water is so polluted that their veterinarian even warned them not to allow their dogs to drink the water. Chautauqua County Health authorities determined: “This is a well documented case showing drinking water impacts that are seemingly related to gas well development.” Yet, DEC has refused to assist this family.

The Ferrugia’s problem directly refutes the RD SGEIS assertions about gas drilling incidents in Chautauqua County because it: a) occurred relatively recently and is on-going; b) was not prevented by DEC regulatory safeguards or gas well drilling and production improvements; c) is documented by pre-drilling and post-drilling drinking water baseline testing and d) was confirmed by local health officials.

The gas well near the Ferrugia house is a vertical well, which uses far less fracking fluid and affects a much smaller footprint than the high-volume, deep-well, horizontal fracking that DEC’s regulations contemplate.

Meantime, attorneys for residents in Dimock, Pennsylvania, whose fracking woes are documented in the film Gasland, have issued a letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, complaining that the agency has grown lax in its demand that the gas-drilling company responsible for polluting their wells provide them with potable water. They accuse Cabot Energy of fudging water quality tests in order to escape their obligations. The letter contains selection from heartrenching interviews with homeowners whose wells have been poisoned, such as this exchange with William Ely:

Q. Have you explored the possibility of drilling a new well?

A. …I don’t think my wife would ever drink out of it anyway, so what’s the sense in drilling it? far as drilling, I don’t think my wife would ever bathe in it or drink it.

Q. Do you know—let me ask it this way: Have you or your wife talked about whether she would drink the spring water?

A. We will probably never drink water off that property never again. We’ll probably buy our water forever…

> Geoff Kelly

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