November 18, 2009, Corning Leader: Gas drilling concerns aired at DEC hearing

Gas drilling concerns aired at DEC hearing


People show their concerns about hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale during Wednesday’s DEC hearing on its proposed gas drilling regulations.

By Derrick Ek

Corning Leader

Corning, N.Y. -

A debate raging across the state took center stage in Corning on Wednesday evening as the state Department of Environmental Conservation held a public hearing on its new regulations for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Hundreds crowded the auditorium at Corning East High School, and dozens spoke passionately about their concerns. Many drew loud applause as others held up signs protesting the impending drilling boom in the Southern Tier, television cameras rolled and police officers watched.

The controversy centers around the Marcellus, a deep underground, previously untapped formation thought to contain the richest supply of gas in North America. Thousands of new wells are expected across upstate New York, and drilling them requires massive amounts of water mixed with toxic chemicals.

The process generates huge amounts of waste water and has been linked to a wide array of environmental problems. Opponents say the Marcellus boom will be on a much larger scale than drilling that has occurred here in the past, with heavy truck traffic and big areas of land being bulldozed.

But the boom is also expected to bring a windfall to landowners who sign gas leases, as well as a significant boost to the upstate New York economy. More than a year ago, the DEC was charged with updating its regulations, turning out an 800-page draft for review, and Wednesday’s public hearing in Corning was one of only a handful held across the state.

Many in attendance claimed the regulations weren’t nearly stringent enough.

Clayton Banks, a staffer for U.S. Rep. Eric Massa, D-Corning, opened Wednesday’s hearing by reading a strongly worded statement written by the 29th District congressman that called Marcellus gas drilling an issue of “extreme significance” and said there are many concerns to be addressed before drilling should be allowed to move forward.

“Given the toxicity of the chemicals used in this process and the many devastating cases of contamination we have seen around the country as a result of operator errors, there is full justification for substantial oversight and strong guidelines regulating this activity,” Massa said. “Currently, however, the incomprehensive regulatory framework in (the proposed regulations), along with insufficient enforcement capabilities, is inadequate to prevent catastrophes similar to those across the border in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.”

Andy Patros, a Chemung County legislator, noted the regulations call for county health departments to be responsible for testing and monitoring private water wells near drilling sites, and wondered where the funding and staffing would come from.

Joe St. Angelo, a Van Etten councilman, said that hundreds of trucks would be required to service each new well in his rural town – a likely drilling hotbed – and there was no money in the budget to repair the road damage that will occur. He said the gas boom would be over in 15 years, leaving wells polluted and property devalued.

“Unfortunately, we’re being overwhelmed by an industry that we have no control over,” St. Angelo said.

Not all spoke against Marcellus drilling.

Ken Knowles Sr., of Woodhull, president of the Steuben Landowners Coalition, said his group hads 1,200 members with 150,000 acres.

“Our position is, if you are opposed to drilling, you are in favor of foreign oil,” a phrase he repeated several times during his speech to a smattering of boos and applause.

“Allow us to harvest our natural resources. That’s all we’re asking for,” Knowles said. Everyone in this room, and in this state, and in the U.S., share these abundant resources. Realize that the lights we use, the heat we enjoy, the traveling we do, would not be possible if we could not harvest our natural resources.”

“Landowners and farmers, because of high taxes, lower agricultural prices and the economy are struggling to survive,” Knowles continued. “Our state government is on the verge of bankruptcy … there’s nothing on the economic horizon that offers the benefits for everyone, landowners or not, that can come close to helping our survival like these natural resources.”

Knowles said rapid technology advances in the drilling industry would ease environmental problems. He also noted that gas companies have always been a good neighbor, an employer, and a taxpayer in Steuben County.

But others claimed the gas industry has a checkered past in New York.

Ithaca environmental activist Walter Hang, who runs a firm called Toxics Targeting Inc. that maps sites affected by pollution, detailed a long history of problems caused by the oil and gas industry.
He said his firm examined DEC records and found 270 incidents, including “fires, explosions, massive pollution releases, contaminated drinking water sources, home evacuations, tainted farmland and widespread threats to wetlands, streams, ponds and other sensitive receptors.”

He said the DEC’s new safeguards were inadequate and failed to address the issue of dealing with the high volume of waste produced by Marcellus drilling, and said he and 1,500 other citizens, elected officials and organizations will be submitting a letter to Gov. David Paterson requesting withdrawal of the regulations.

The DEC will continue accepting written comments through Dec. 31. Submission guidelines are posted online at

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A simple thing to do

Concerning the Gas Drilling in the Catskills.
What needs to be done here locally is for each person who is a member here to copy a page of 15 REASONS WHY THE DEC DRAFT SEGEIS REPORT (THE DRAFT) RELEASED ON SEPTEMBER 30, 2009 NEEDS TO BE REWRITTEN with the url of
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November 10, 2009, Times Herald Record: NYC rally aims to stop drilling in watershed Local groups seek same


link to complete article is here:

Sure, Tuesday’s "Kill the Drill" rally in New York City aims to stop gas drilling in the city watershed.

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November 9, 2009, Albany Times Union: Is Marcellus Shale too hot to handle? State officials unsure of how to handle radioactive

Is Marcellus Shale too hot to handle?
State officials unsure of how to handle radioactive wastewater created by drilling process
 link to complete article is here:
First published: Monday, November 9, 2009
As New York gears up for gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, state officials have made a potentially troubling discovery about the wastewater created by the process: It’s radioactive. And they have yet to say how they’ll deal with it.

The information comes from New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which analyzed 13 samples of wastewater brought thousands of feet to the surface from drilling and found that they contain levels of radium-226, a derivative of uranium, as high as 267 times the limit safe for discharge into the environment and thousands of times the limit safe for people to drink.

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November 6, 2009, Albany Times Union Editorial: A drilling chant: Slow, baby, slow

A drilling chant: Slow, baby, slow

First published: Friday, November 6, 2009

The rush to drill for natural gas in New York seems to be slowing a bit. We’re encouraged — guardedly so — by the Department of Environmental Conservation’s decision to give the public an extra month to weigh in on the state’s proposed new gas drilling rules. Continue reading

November 5, 2009, Wayne Independent: Gas company slapped with environmental violations

By Steve McConnell

Dimock Township, Pa. -

A natural gas drilling company must provide a permanent supply of water to 13 homes in Dimock Township, Susquehanna County along with correcting problems at its production sites that caused methane to pollute drinking water in this small rural community, environmental regulators said.
The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) slapped Cabot Oil & Gas on Wednesday with a 23-page order – littered with a slew of additional environmental violations – of corrective actions the company must address to eliminate the methane contamination in the hopes of restoring well water in the affected area.
According to the consent order obtained by The Wayne Independent, eight natural gas wells operated by the Texas-based company failed – causing methane to spew into the local aquifer beginning about December 2008. The failures were due to either excessive pressure or “insufficient or improper” underground well casings – which ordinarily prevent this type of incident from occurring.  (Methane is the principal component of natural gas).
DEP delineated a nine-square mile “affected area” – home to 62 Cabot Oil & Gas natural gas wells in Dimock Township – centering around Carter Road.
Carter Road is also home to some of the 13 residences that now have methane-infused drinking and bathing water.
The company was fined $120,000 for the methane contamination on Wednesday.
This follows a $56,650 fine for three toxic chemical spills in September that released, in the same township, an estimated 8,000 gallons of an industrial waste associated with Cabot’s natural gas drilling, said environmental regulators and a company spokesperson. Shortly after the spills that also flowed into a local creek and wetland, DEP shutdown Cabot’s operation in the area.
“The goal of the consent order and agreement is to ensure a long-term resolution to issues that have emerged in Dimock,” said DEP Director Kelly Burch. An attempt to call a Cabot spokesperson was unsuccessful by press time on Thursday.
If well water is not fully restored, the company must provide an alternate, long-term solution to supply water to the 13 impacted residences.
The residences were located within 1,300 feet of Cabot’s operations, according to the consent order; drilling began around Carter Road in August 2008.
Carter Road residents have previously told The Wayne Independent that they began drinking bottled water after learning that their wells contained elevated levels of methane, in some instances at a combustible concentration.
Combustion actually occurred in one instance and served as the proverbial wake-up call to the problems here: DEP began its investigation after a concrete slab on top of a resident’s well exploded on New Year’s Day – 2009.
“We weren’t here when it happened,” Norma Fiorentino told The Wayne Independent last spring about what happened to her well. “But we came back and found a big hole in the earth where it was.”
Fiorentino has refused to drink her well water since then.
“You just don’t drink water that explodes,” she said; nearly a year later, the company will now purchase water for her.
The company, which has leased 78 private properties in Wayne County, giving them the right to drill for natural gas, must repair all of its failed natural gas wells by March. If the company does not do so by then, the wells must be plugged.
According to DEP, Cabot has thus far fixed five of the eight failed wells; but three still have “insufficient or improper” casings – meaning that methane may still be seeping through the drilled well, thereby into the local aquifer.
The consent order also detailed four other industrial waste spills reported by the company in Dimock Township.

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