Green groups disagree with Moniz’s ‘rhetoric’ on fracking

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Ernest Moniz. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

By Scott Waldman, Capital New York 5:40 p.m. | Feb. 18, 2014
A coalition of New York’s environmental groups sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz on Tuesday, after an interview with Capital in which he praised the job-creating potential of hydraulic fracturing.

Moniz cited Pennsylvania’s experience with fracking as “amazing,” saying drilling had “enormous economic benefits for the state” that could possibly help New York too.

But the state’s environmental groups, which have so far succeeded in prolonging a moratorium on drilling, responded by saying the economic benefits had been overstated and that pro-fracking arguments were industry “rhetoric.”

… The groups signing onto the letter include: New Yorkers Against Fracking, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Citizen Action, Food&Water Watch, Frack Action and New York Public Interest Research Group.


The New York State Water Supply: We Can’t Become Another West Virginia

By Ramsay Adams

Most of New York State’s drinking water comes from right here in the Catskills, and it is renowned for its taste and purity.

Our water is simply amazing, and we need to protect it for all of us who live here, and the 19 million people in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania that rely on water from our Delaware and Catskill wathersheds.

Our Catskill water is so pure, it reaches the taps of New York City unfiltered. Sadly, for the most part, we take it for granted that its purity and supply is being protected with vigilence by governmental regulatory agencies.

In our everyday lives, we just trust the water from our wells or municipal sources is safe and pure.  We also trust that our regulatory agencies are doing their most to protect us from pollution and spills into our water supply.

The truth is that we should be much more watchful and cautious in making sure our water supply is protected.

Case in point: There’s an ongoing environmental disaster involving the water supply of hundreds of thousands of residents in West Virginia that we in the Catskills should be paying very close attention to in terms of protecting our own H2O.

Earlier this month, over 7,500 gallons of a clear, licorice-smelling chemical used to process coal leaked from an old storage tank and spilled into the Elk River.  The accident took place near the largest water treatment plant in the state.

Life came to a halt there with the resulting prohibition on using tap water. Over 300,000 residents of West Virginia were ordered not to drink the tap water. That chemical, Crude MCHM, which is primarily composed of a chemical named 4-methylcyclohexane methanol is very toxic, and there were immediate reports of rashes, stomach aches, and other ailments.

After 10 days, restrictions on using tap water were lifted for most of those affected by the disaster, even though the licorice smell remained. Pregnant women are still being advised not to drink the water, while Governor Earl Ray Tomblin emphasized that tests indicated the water is safe under guidelines set by the US Centers for Disease Control, he also told a press conference he was not aware of a recommendation for home owners to flush their pipes until the smell is not present.

He was not too reassuring when he told residents: “If you do not feel comfortable drinking or cooking in this water, then use bottled water…I’m not going to say absolutely, 100 percent that everything is safe. But what I can say is if you do not feel comfortable, don’t use it.”

Now as West Virginia officials, who are no strangers to environmental spills and lax regulation, scurry to deal with the health disaster, serious questions are being raised as to why there’s so little regulation of the storage of these chemicals-and even worse, why there’s so little knowledge by the Federal government and the medical field about the potential toxicity of chemicals like the one spilled into the Elk River.

What stands out the most from the WV spill is how the Federal and state governments throughout the nation fail to monitor chemicals and their use in terms of protecting our water supplies.

A recent article in the Washington Post’s Health and Science section stated that “It has been 38 years since Congress passed a major piece of legislation regulating toxic chemicals, even though there is no disagreement that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA, or Tosca) needs an overhaul” and that “”Chemicals in the United States are generally treated as innocent until proven guilty. A company does not have to prove that a chemical does not pose a health hazard in order to introduce it in the commercial market.”

Much like West Virginia, our state is way too lax in regulating chemicals. 

Here in New York State, the controversy surrounding Fracking already highlights the dangerous nature of chemicals used and released in the fracking process, particularly to the water supply, and serves as a reminder of how lax the regulation of chemicals are in our own backyard.  In fact, several of the chemicals identified in the West Virginia spill are manufactured for fracking operations.

In a report issued by Environmental Advocates in May, 2012, a dire warning was issued about the lack of regulation of the oil and drilling process and the flawed exemption of chemicals from being deemed hazardous waste:

“Existing state laws and regulations do not require oil and gas companies to report with any specificity how much waste is being created, its chemical components, or how drilling waste is being disposed. We also discovered that much of fracking’s waste would likely be classified as hazardous waste if it were not exempt under flawed state regulations.”

The lessons of the recent chemical spill in West Virginia need to be learned well, and implemented quickly, here in upstate New York.

It’s just not about potential fracking here in the Catskills, but about a broader, rudimentary need to protect our water supply from chemicals on a day-to-day basis.

Right now, our water supply is woefully underregulated in terms of chemical storage and transportation, and with the boom going on right now in transmission pipes servicing the needs of the oil and gas industries in neighboring states, updated studies and regulations should be mandated immediately.

The time to take action is now, at both the local and state levels of government, before it is too late.  To find out what you can do to help, email us or visit Catskill Mountainkeeper today.

We need your comments on the State Energy Plan

NY State Energy Plan Needs to Rely Less on Fracked Gas and More on Renewables

In a move that bolsters the growing anti-fracking movement, New York City Mayor Bill de New York Mayor de Blasio delivers remarks at the plenary session of the U.S. Conference of MayorsBlasio made headlines last week when he spoke out against fracking: “The science simply isn’t reliable enough. The technology isn’t reliable enough. And there’s too much danger to our water supply, to our environment in general.”

We couldn’t agree more. That’s why we don’t want a New York State Energy Plan that relies more heavily on fracked gas.  Whether natural gas is coming from New York State or neighboring Pennsylvania, it still contributes to climate change and perpetuates the mining and burning of dirty fossil fuels long into the future. Instead of increasing our reliance on natural gas, we should be planning for greater investment in clean, renewable energies such as solar, wind and geothermal. Join us in asking for a safer, cleaner energy future by commenting on the plan today.

We applaud the Governor’s new initiatives on renewable energy and clean technology that are outlined in the plan, including a ten-year statewide solar program that will increase solar power generation ten-fold, and a program to put solar panels on our schools.

But what else is outlined in the plan?  We looked at the 600-page document and found that it relies heavily on burning natural gas and promotes a massive build-out of natural gas infrastructure (an expanded network of pipelines, compressor stations and storage facilities across New York State).

We also found omissions and inconsistencies that will harm New Yorkers.  For instance, the plan projects a 50% reduction of carbon emissions by 2030.  This goal is based on an increase of natural gas use. The calculation outlined to measure emissions is limited to carbon dioxide only, and completely ignores the measurement of methane. Methane is the major component of natural gas, and has been proven to leak throughout the drilling and delivery processes.

Energy PlanThe plan asks for having an 80% reduction in overall green house gas emissions by 2050, which is a laudable goal. But we cannot base our calculations to get there by ignoring the impacts of natural gas infrastructure, and the increased methane emissions that would come with it.
  We need to demand an energy plan that considers the impacts of all climate-changing emissions, including methane.

“The overall energy policy outlined in the plan guarantees the perpetuation of dirty fossil fuels,” says Wes Gillingham, Catskill Mountainkeeper Program Director, “If gas companies spend billions on a new natural gas infrastructure they will want to see a return on this investment, which would tie us to natural gas for many, many years.”

The public review process of the draft Energy Plan is now underway.  The public has only been given 60 days to comment on the 600-page document, and although there are supposed to be 6 public hearings in Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Long Island, none have been scheduled to date.  Originally the statute that governs energy policy stated that the public would have 6 months to review this critical plan, but delays in the release of the document have shut out sufficient public comment.  This is unacceptable.

What we decide today will shape the energy future of New York.  Please join us in two important actions:

  1. Click here to sign a letter to John B. Rhodes, the Chairman of the New York State Energy State Planning Board, requesting that the comment period be extended from 2 to 6 months.
  2. Click here to comment on the energy plan.  Please tell the Governor:
  • Instead of growing our dependence on natural gas, we should be weaning off of it.
  • Methane emissions must be measured to more accurately predict how much green house gas we’re sending into the atmosphere.
  • Instead of building a massive gas infrastructure, we should be building an infrastructure for clean, renewable energy.

Mountainkeeper Making News

In Philadelphia, the groups Protecting Our Waters, Clean Air Council, Philadelphia Interfaith Power and Light, the CatskillMountainkeeper, and Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy called for halting trains shipments of fracked oil and gas. “This derailment …Pittsburgh Post-Gazette · ByJon Schmitz · 1/22/2014
Philadelphia, PA – Outrage is building among residents … Yesterday’s derailment put the Schuylkill River at risk as toxic Bakken shale oil, known to contain carcinogenic benzene and deadly hydrogen sulfide at high levels, dangles over …Akron Beacon Journal · ByBob Downing · 1/21/2014
Youngsville, NY: “Debra Winger and Mark Ruffalo have been integral to our fight against fracking, and the anti-fracking celeb list is gaining momentum in large part because of them,” says Ramsay Adams, Founder …Lawyers and Settlements · ByJane Mundy · 1/17/2014
But a series of tourism-themed displays prevented that from happening this year. Wes Gillingham, program director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, said the large showing represents the strength of fracking · ByJon Campbell · 1/10/2014
Among the critics of hydraulic fracturing participating are New Yorkers Against Fracking, Citizen Action of New York, the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter and Catskill Mountainkeeper, among many others, according to a press release. “As science shows that … · ByJon Campbell · 1/3/2014
But more potential health risks are lacking scrutiny as well. Wes Gillingham, program director for Catskill Mountainkeeper calls the current fracking halt in the state “precarious.” “We don’t know what Public Health Commissioner Shah is studying or …AlterNet · 12/17/2013
To introduce Woodstock residents to the current options and answer questions about making the switch from conventional electricity providers to a Green Energy Supplier, or Green ESCO, as it is called, Catskill … · 12/14/2013
Two years ago, Catskill Mountainkeeper and our allies rallied activists across four states to put pressure on the DRBC to cancel a high-stakes meeting in Trenton, NJ. In this meeting, members of the DRBC were expected to adopt fatally flawed regulations …Fly Rod & Reel · 11/15/2013
This past weekend, NRDC and our friends from Catskill Mountainkeeper and NYPIRG brought students from SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Binghamton to witness firsthand the devastation that fracking has caused in … · 11/12/2013
Opponents of casinos, which include conservative think tanks and Catskill Mountainkeeper, have questioned their economic impact. Casinos, they say, amount to a regressive tax on the less-fortunate and gambling addicts. Along with the casino amendment …WGRZ TV · 11/6/2013