Conflict of Interest for Firms Hired by DEC/State for Fracking SGEIS

Common Cause/NY ♦ Center for Environmental Health ♦ Catskill Mountainkeeper ♦ Delaware Riverkeeper Network ♦ Food & Water Watch ♦ Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy ♦ Citizens Campaign for the Environment ♦ Citizens for Water ♦ NYH2O ♦ Damascus Citizens for Sustainability ♦ Riverkeeper, Inc. ♦ Frack Action

Government Watchdog and Environmental Groups Join Call to Scrap the SGEIS New Review Shows Revelations of Additional Disturbing Conflicts of Interest

Today, Common Cause/NY, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Food & Water Watch, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Center for Environmental Health, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Citizens for Water, NYH2O, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Riverkeeper, Inc.,and Frack Action called on Governor Cuomo to scrap the Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (RDSGEIS) for high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) due to the extent of involvement by three firms who are members of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York (IOGA NY) in the preparation of the SGEIS. A new review undertaken by Common Cause/NY showed two more IOGA members worked on the SGEIS, bringing the total to three. The groups also asked for a full accounting of relationships between SGEIS reviewers and IOGA.

IOGA NY is the state’s leading voice advocating for the gas industry and touting the safety and economic benefits of fracking. On its website, the group describes itself as “represent[ing] oil and gas professionals to the citizens and lawmakers of New York State.” Just last July, the organization received $2 million from Exxon Mobil to run a pro-fracking advertising campaign.

Listed alongside over 200 other corporate members on IOGA NY’s April 22 letter calling on Governor Cuomo to open New York State to fracking are three engineering and consulting firms that were retained by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and NYSERDA during the preparation of the Revised Draft SGEIS– Ecology and Environment Inc. (E&E), Alpha Geoscience, and URS Corporation.

Research, including documents produced in response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request, reveal that these firms were deeply involved in preparation of sections of the RDSGEIS response to public comments.  The analysis of fracking’s socioeconomic impacts contained in the RDSGEIS was prepared by E & E and has been heavily criticized by environmental and public health organizations for failing to comprehensively evaluate fracking’s potential negative socioeconomic impacts.  Although heavily redacted, the FOILed documents also show that E & E was intricately involved in the comment review and response process, participating in weekly reviews with government officials. Indeed, the documents show that, at times, E & E had nearly as many staff involved in the review process as the DEC itself.

Alpha Geoscience was hired by NYSERDA to refute the analysis submitted to the initial SGEIS by one expert hydro-geologist, Tom Myers (who was hired by Catskill Mountainkeeper, Earthjustice NRDC and Riverkeeper Inc) which it did in a taxpayer-financed 57 page report.  This earlier advocacy role raises serious questions about Alpha Geoscience’s ability to maintain an objective viewpoint during the RDSGEIS review and evaluation process.

Similarly, URS Corporation, also consulting with DEC to prepare the RDSGEIS, was previously retained by NYSERDA to provide positions on water-related issues associated with gas production in the Marcellus Shale.

The affiliation of E&E, Alpha Geoscience, and URS Corporation with IOGA NY raises disturbing questions about the firms’ role as supposedly impartial expert advisors to the DEC.  With such close ties to the natural gas industry, these firms clearly stand to garner greater profits in the long run by serving the interests of industry rather than government, a common potential conflict of interest when industry-related consultants are tapped to perform evaluations and reviews by government.  In light of these revelations, the groups question what further facts might be discovered which would reveal further industry influence over what was to be an objective and neutral government review and evaluation process.

Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner stated, “We are deeply disquieted by this large scale breach of the public interest. New Yorkers submitted over 66,000 comments on the proposed SGEIS in good faith, reflecting their concerns. These conflicts of interest discredit the impartiality of the review process.“  Lerner concluded, “New Yorkers demand and deserve a truly independent evaluation of the risks and benefits attendant to hydraulic fracturing and should not be expected to trust the results of these consultants’ work.”

“It is ridiculous that multiple contractors with industry ties were hired by two agencies for huge sums of money, with the appearance of advocating for drilling. All the while we were told money could not be put in the Budget for a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment. It is certainly flattering that an industry consultant was hired to do specific review of our comments showing how contaminates will get into aquifers but this just reeks of government scandal,” pointed out Wes Gillingham, Program Director of Catskill Mountainkeeper.

“New York’s environmental review process requires impartial expertise by the state. The taint of bias on the part of consultants they hired for this most critical review of fracking is the kiss of death, invalidates their findings and there’s no other choice but to throw out the entire report,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper.

“Unfortunately the conflicts of interest involving paid consultants retained by the DEC should surprise no one.  The department’s Division of Mineral Resources has repeatedly shown itself to be little more than a captive agency of the industry it is supposed to regulate. It has misled the public about the chemical ingredients used in fracking fluid, and concealed the hundreds of drilling accidents that have endangered New Yorkers in the past. A thorough housecleaning is in order,” said Bruce Ferguson of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy.

“Fracking is a dangerous process that can make people sick. We can’t afford to leave New Yorkers’ health in the hands of the industry that stands to profit from fracking,” said Ansje Miller, Eastern States Director for the Center for Environmental Health.

“In November 2011, Riverkeeper called out DEC Commissioner Joe Martens for the pro-fracking bias that pervades the state’s socioeconomic impact analysis. Nearly two years later, we learn that the firm who developed the socioeconomic impact analysis has ties with IOGA NY and that the entire RDSGEIS is in question. We need to wipe the slate clean and start over with an honest review. Until that is done, the process is fundamentally flawed and cannot justify public trust,” said Paul Gallay, the Hudson Riverkeeper.

Breaking News: New statewide poll finds ‘clear margin’ against fracking

Quinnipiac Poll Confirms that New Yorkers Don’t Want Fracking

The Quinnipiac University poll released today shows statewide opposition to fracking is growing. The new poll finds opponents outnumbering supporters of fracking in the survey by 46-39 percent — a new low for fracking proponents and the first time a “clear margin” has opposed it in Quinnipiac polling.

Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute stated that voters are “turning negative on the basic idea…”  of fracking.

According to Ramsay Adams, Mountainkeeper Executive Director, “The more that New Yorkers learn about fracking, the more they oppose it.  The oil and gas industry is waging a massive, glitzy, smooth talking campaign to convince New Yorkers that they can get fracked and like it.  New Yorkers aren’t buying it.”


Across the country, there has been a rising tide of citizen opposition to extreme energy extraction.  From strip-mining for coal, to hydrofracking for natural gas, to the tar sands; more and more people are rising up to confront the devastating effects of extreme energy extraction on their communities – and people are increasingly seeing all of these struggles as interconnected – and ultimately  about climate change. This is why people from all walks of life are stepping up and going to hearings, taking days off from work to be at rallies and in some cases making the personal choice of civil disobedience to stand up for what is right.  Below is a story about one of these struggles.

12 Arrested Blockading Controversial Fracking Infrastructure

(Reprinted with Permission from our allies at Green Umbrella)

Sandra Steingraber PhD., biologist, author and Trumansburg, NY resident, was arrested alongside residents of Seneca Lake and local college students to oppose Kansas City, MO based Inergy, natural gas and liquid petroleum gas storage facility, which would lock in natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale region. Protesters have linked arms and deployed a banner reading “Our Future is Unfractured, We Are Greater Than Dirty Inergy” across the entrance to the facility on NY State Route 14.
The blockade precedes a 250+ person rally opposing the Inergy facility scheduled to begin at the Watkins Glen Village Marina at 5 p.m. today.  Twenty-five demonstrators blockaded the Inergy facility, which they say is one example of numerous fracking infrastructure projects that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have allowed to “slip in the back door” while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo debates allowing the controversial and extreme process of horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

Steingraber, who lives in neighboring Tompkins County said, “It is wrong to bury explosive, toxic petroleum gases in underground chambers next to a source of drinking water for 100,000 people. It is wrong to build out the infrastructure for fracking at a time of climate emergency. It is right for me come to the shores of Seneca Lake, where my 11-year-old son was born, and say, with my voice and with my body, as a mother and biologist, that this facility is a threat to life and health.”

The blockade joins a growing national movement to call attention to environmental injustices caused by unconventional and extreme fossil fuel extraction techniques, including Inergy’s hotly debated salt cavern gas storage facility proposed for Reading, NY. Dennis Fox, a Cornell University Sophomore said, “This isn’t just a local issue—when students stand shoulder to shoulder with communities on the frontlines of the fight against extreme projects like Inergy’s, we’re one step closer to stopping fracking, and one step closer to protecting my generation’s future from poisoned water and devastating climate change.”

Inergy’s facility has generated widespread concerns for its proximity to Seneca Lake, New York State’s largest fresh water body and the source of drinking water for 100,000 people. Michael Dineen, a resident of Seneca County, which contains a portion of Seneca Lake, said, “The priorities of Inergy’s project are all wrong. Drinking water and people’s health are more valuable than gas. The Finger Lakes region holds one of the largest pool of fresh water in the United States and needs our protection—we don’t need to lock in investments in dirty fracking infrastructure that will deepen our dependence on an inherently contaminating industry.”

Melisa Chipman, a resident of Schuyler County, where the facility is located said, “Not only do salt cavern gas storage facilities like Inergy’s have a very high probability of ‘catastrophic equipment failure,’ but I do not want more truck traffic polluting our air, destroying our roads, and scaring tourists away.” The DEC has received increasingly vocal criticism from local wineries and tourist businesses for refusing to conduct a comprehensive review of the potential environmental and economic impacts of Inergy’s plans to expand gas storage capacity of the current facility from 1.5 to 10.0 billion cubic feet.


Mark Ruffalo’s Game-Changing Plan For A Renewable Energy Future in New York

The Real Plan For a Renewable Energy Future For New York

Activist, actor and Catskill Mountainkeeper board member Mark Ruffalo has spearheaded the effort to create a real plan for a renewable energy future for New York State.  He, along with Academy Award nominated filmmaker, Josh Fox, put together a team of researchers headed by Stanford University Professor Mark Z. Jacobson (and 2012 Mountainkeeper Barnfest keynote speaker) to tackle the challenge.  The result is the groundbreaking report released today, entitled “Examining the Feasibility of Converting New York State’s All-Purpose Energy Infrastructure to One Using Wind, Water and Sunlight“.

Jacobson co-authored the report with Cornell University Professor of Engineering, Anthony Ingraffea, Cornell Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Robert W. Howarth, and University of California at Davis scientist Mark Delucchi, among others. Their findings are published in the journal Energy Policy.

The 64 page report crunches the numbers needed for wind, water and sunlight (WWS) to meet New York’s power needs by 2030 and shows us that the technology exists now to implement the plan and that it is economically viable to do so.  The real question is whether our state leaders have the political wherewithal to make this happen.  According to the study, if New York switched to WWS, air pollution–related deaths would decline by about 4,000 annually and the state would save about $33 billion – 3 percent of the state’s gross domestic product – in related health costs every year. That savings alone would pay for the new power infrastructure needed within about 17 years, or about 10 years if annual electricity sales are accounted for. The study also estimates that resultant emissions decreases would reduce 2050 U.S. climate change costs – such as coastal erosion and extreme weather damage – by about $3.2 billion per year.

Currently, almost all of New York’s energy comes from imported oil, coal and gas. Under the plan that Jacobson and his fellow researchers advance, 40 percent of the state’s energy would come from local wind power, 38 percent from local solar and the remainder from a combination of hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal and wave energy.

Journalist Stacy Clark wrote an extensive article featured in today’s Huffington Post about how Mark and Josh made this happen and what the implications of the study are:


Meet and Greet

“Just over two years ago, on the southeast side of San Francisco, near the 101 freeway, RaboBank’s Executive VP, Marco Krapels, who manages its Capital Markets and Renewable Energy Finance Division, hosted a star-studded soirée at which he introduced the actor-activist Mark Ruffalo, Gasland filmmaker Josh Fox and Jacobson to renewable energy investors, social media influencers and well-connected environmental leaders. Many on the guest list were already aware of Ruffalo’s efforts to ban natural gas fracking in New York state and Fox’s work to expose the toxic hazards of natural gas-drilling. Guests had also come to learn of Jacobson’s Scientific American article — published a year earlier — which proposed that “a large-scale wind, water and solar energy system can reliably supply the world’s needs.” In that paper, Jacobson added, “the obstacles [to clean energy] are primarily political, not technical.” Many attending guests had watched Jacobson’s February, 2010 TED Talks debate performance, where he presented a compelling case in favor of a 100 percent renewable U.S. energy plan.

Attention quickly focused on the Stanford brainiac, who offered the audience a refreshingly objective examination of his work. “Mathematics can be used to estimate the likely outcome of a new idea,” Jacobson began. He explained that his team was busy researching U.S. energy usage from the point of exploration all the way through to the point of consumption. In doing so, they kept account of the “external” costs of each energy source. The respective costs and benefits of each technology became a mathematical profile of sorts and what they found was remarkable: “When you properly factor in the economic costs of natural gas and other fossil fuels — their burden on the environment, human health and the economy — the benefits of renewable electricity are not only indisputable, but they’re financially compelling.” Jacobson’s cocktail conversation made an impression as industry moguls and tech savvy pioneers exchanged attentive nods.

Ruffalo spoke of his family’s move to upstate New York and the unwelcome realization that the region’s groundwater was threatened by the industrial practice of fracturing bedrock to extract natural gas. He described the grassroots campaign that ensued to end the industrial operations and the ongoing battle to permanently ban the practice statewide (a two-year moratorium on natural gas fracking in New York was recently announced by the NY legislature and awaits Senate approval). As New York’s electricity is generated almost exclusively by coal and natural gas, alternative fuel sources would necessarily be required should New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ultimately decide to ban fracking operations permanently.”

Read the entire article here

Download the report here

Two Year Fracking Moratorium Introduced in both NYS Senate and Assembly

carlucci_savinoYesterday, I joined Senators Diane Savino and David Carlucci at a press conference with other environmental leaders at the Capitol Building in Albany to announce that the Senate’s five-member Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) had unveiled legislation that would stop the clock on the State’s long consideration of the controversial natural gas drilling technique known as fracking.  A similar bill that calls for a two-year moratorium based on a comprehensive health impact assessment is expected to be approved by the Assembly as early as today.

The Independent Democratic Conference, which shares control of the Senate with Republicans, said this independent health review, known as the Geisinger study, and two other reviews on drinking water must be completed before Gov. Andrew Cuomo settles the five-year-old debate.

“We have to put science first. We have to put the health of New Yorkers first,” said IDC member Sen. David Carlucci.

“We cannot afford to make a mistake,” said Sen. Diane Savino of Staten Island, another IDC member.

As reported in the Albany Times Union, DOH Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah said last month that his agency’s review — conducted with the assistance of outside specialists — will be delayed as he seeks briefings from researchers currently examining fracking’s possible health effects in Pennsylvania.

The IDC’s legislation makes specific mention of the need to wait for the completion of the three studies referenced by Shah in his February letter to DEC Commissioner Joe Martens informing him of the delay. The three studies include a federal Environmental Protection Agency investigation of the potential effects on drinking water, a study by Geisinger Health Systems examining the medical histories of those living near gas facilities in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Marcellus Shale region, and a recently announced study from University of Pennsylvania researchers in collaboration with Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of North Carolina.

The bill would block the DEC from finalizing the environmental impact statement for two years from the bill’s effective date “or until the Commissioner of Health determines that the completion of the studies deemed relevant … have produced data sufficient to make a recommendation to DEC” on the health safety of fracking.

All five members of the IDC, which has formed a power-sharing alliance with the Senate’s Republican conference, support the legislation.”  Read the entire Albany Times Union story

What Does This Mean?

Elected leaders from both sides of the aisle are putting strong pressure on Governor Cuomo to wait for the scientific studies that are already underway.  We hope that the Governor will heed the recommendations of our State’s representatives and allow his Health and Environment Commissioners the necessary time to make informed decisions based on proper review of the completed studies.

Ramsay Adams
Executive Director

Fracking Story in YES! Magazine Gives a Great Overview of the Movement and How We Got Here

A visit to Dimock

“Like most successful actors, Mark Ruffalo could plant his family anywhere, but he fell in love with Sullivan County’s trout-rich streams and hemlock forests; they reminded him of Wisconsin, where he grew up. At first Ruffalo was enthusiastic about the gas extraction rumors he heard in Callicoon. But that changed in June 2010 when he visited Dimock, Pa., just across the state border. He made that trip with environmental lawyer Robert Kennedy Jr. at the invitation of Ramsay Adams, founder and executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, a regional conservation group.

Adams introduced Kennedy and Ruffalo to Dimock residents who felt conned and sickened. “We inspected contaminated wells and heard residents’ complaints of feeling abandoned by companies leasing their land and by their elected officials,” recalls Ruffalo of his Dimock trip. “In fact, they were looking to Kennedy and me to save them.” By the end of that visit, Ruffalo’s view of fracking had done a 180-degree turn. “I think what you’re doing is terrific,” Ruffalo told Adams. “Let me know how I can help.”


Time to Make Your Voice Heard as Fracking Deadline Looms

Fracking is Coming Unless We Pull Together to Stop It

If the stakes weren’t so high, the way that New York State is conducting its review of fracking’s environmental and health impacts would be laughable. Again and again the Governor and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have put the cart before the horse and turned what should be a straightforward, science-based process into a convoluted debacle.

It’s hard to explain how the DEC could issue the regulations that would govern fracking BEFORE they finished their Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, the in depth document they have been working on for the last several years.

Or how they could issue those same fracking regulations BEFORE the panel of three medical experts they hired to study the health impacts of fracking submitted their report.

And all of this is coming on the heels of the devastating report this week by researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that has reconfirmed earlier findings of high rates of methane leakage from natural gas fields and in fact found that levels can be much higher than previously anticipated.  These findings utterly vitiate the climate benefit of natural gas, even when used as an alternative to coal.

This week The New York Times released a copy of a year-old closely guarded report from the state’s Health Department that concluded that fracking could be done safely within the regulatory system that the state has been developing for several years. It is inexplicable how the state could come to that conclusion with no original research and no independent assessment of the public health risks.

Unfortunately this is not a laughing matter and the fiasco that has become the regulatory process is moving us toward the implementation of fracking in New York State.

But there are still things that we can do to fight this outrage:

Help flood the DEC with comments on proposed fracking regulations

We have until just January 11, 2013 to make comments on the DEC’s proposed fracking regulations. We are trying to replicate the staggering 66,000 comments that were submitted to the DEC on the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS) and we need your help to do it. We want the Governor and the DEC to understand the depth of public sentiment against fracking New York State. Please go to Thirty Days of Fracking Regs to learn more about the flaws in the regulations and submit your comments.

Join us for a rally in Albany at the Governor’s State of the State Address on January 9, 2013 and speak out to ban fracking

We will be rallying before the Governor gives his annual State of the State Address.

Date/Time: Wednesday, January 9th, 2013
, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Place: Empire State Plaza – Concourse hallway near the entrance to The Egg
(Indoors), Albany, NY

Stay over in Albany and join us at the New York State Assembly Hearings on the DEC’s proposed fracking regulations on January 10, 2013.

Your testimony at the New York State Assembly Hearings will be extremely important in our fight to ban fracking in New York State. For more information and to register to testify please click here.

Date/Time: Thursday, January 10th, 9:30 AM
Place: Legislative Office Building, 2nd Floor, Albany, New York

This is a critical time in the fight we have been waging against fracking and now more than ever we need your help.

Why Mountainkeeper Needs Your Support This Holiday Season

happy-holidays During this holiday season I hope that you include Catskill Mountainkeeper in your year-end giving for 2012.   A significant portion of our operating budget comes from end of year donations and it is a great time to support our work because your contribution is tax-deductible.  It is really easy to donate before the end of tax season by using our secure online donation system, by using Paypal or by sending us a check.

Why should you support Catskill Mountainkeeper?
We love the Catskills, and know you do too.  Over the last five years, Mountainkeeper has become its leading advocate, working tirelessly to protect the region from imminent threats like hazardous gas drilling while encouraging a sustainable future through smart planning and promotion of the region’s agricultural and tourism industries.  While we have made great progress under surmountable odds, the future of New York State is still unclear.  The decision on fracking from Albany is looming; we don’t have much time to ensure our voices are heard and dually represented.

We need to increase our efforts, our actions and our giving, before it’s too late.

Advocating for the Catskills needs to be a group effort.  That’s why across the region, generous members of the community are donating their time, goods and services in support of the work we do.  It is with thanks to them, that we offer the following to you:

Contribute $20 or more to Mountainkeeper between now and December 31st, and be entered into a drawing for: Heron_DinnerFor6 copy


Please join us. Click Here to make a secure donation online today.

As a grassroots organization, a large portion of our funding comes from our annual appeal.  By supporting us at this time, you will not only become an important part of our ongoing efforts to ban the dangerous practice of hydraulic fracturing in New York State but will also be supporting our comprehensive plan to encourage sustainable economic alternatives.  Together, we can protect the vast resources and unique character of the beautiful and irreplaceable Catskill region.

To find out more about what Mountainkeeper has accomplished this past year I invite you to read my 2012 Report to Stakeholders.  In it you’ll find valuable information about the latest steps we’ve taken in our fight against fracking, as well as the economic opportunities we are working to develop.  If you stand behind what we do, please stand with us, and donate today.

There are three simple ways to donate:

 donate_hand(1)paypal Mail a Check to:
Catskill Mountainkeeper
P.O. Box 381
Youngsville, New York 12791

To find out more ways you can become involved, visit our website at

Catskill Mountainkeeper is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and all contributions are tax deductible.

As always, I remain available to answer any questions you might have. Please don’t hesitate to give me a call, send an email or stop by my Youngsville office.

Best wishes for a joyous holiday season.

Ramsay Adams
Executive Director

Dec 04, 2012 – Fracking Update: Cuomo Administration Short Changes Health Review

Let the Science make the Decision on Fracking

Governor Cuomo has promised that the decision on whether fracking would go forward in New York State would be guided by science, but recent actions by his admininistration are contrary to that goal.  The New York State Department of Conservation (DEC) has now put in motion a process for the health review of fracking that does not give the medical experts the Governor appointed the time to do a thorough review and is not open to public comment.

The DEC has not given the medical experts that were appointed time to do a thorough review of the health impacts of fracking and has limited public comment.

For a quick overview of how we got to this point click here: Peter Mantius: Doctorsfracking concerns being ignored Corning Leader ‎- December 2, 2012

It appears as if the medical experts hired to review the health impact of fracking in New York State are being given just days each to review what the Department of Health (DOH) has already written. One of the experts, Lynn Goldman, made statements to the press that she had a December 3rd, 2012 deadline to complete her work even though she had signed a contract only 10 days prior and at that time had not yet seen the health review. We have learned that the state signed contracts with each medical expert that limits their work to 25 hours each.

The actions of the medical experts will not be a comprehensive independent health impact assessment that New Yorkers have been asking for.  In fact based on the amount of time they’re being given, they will hardly have time to read the data on the health impacts of fracking that has already been written. Catskill Mountainkeeper and our partners have been advocating for a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) since 2008.  Our requests for a comprehensive and rigorous independent HIA that distinguishes itself from other kinds of public health investigations by using quantitative, qualitative and participatory techniques have been ignored.

  • The health review process now has NO public input of any kind, which is totally unacceptable.
  • The comment period on the fracking regulations is a mere 30 days, and the timing over
    the holidays seems designed to stifle public comment.
  • The effort to push forward the fracking decision is anything but the open, transparent,
    comprehensive process that is needed.

Please do these three things to protect New Yorkers:

Write to Governor Cuomo now using our easy email form.

Call Governor Cuomo

NYC Office (212) 681-4580

Albany Office (518) 474-8390
And very importantly, make comments on the problems with the fracking regulations as we report them to you in the next few weeks. It is critical that as many New Yorkers as possible weigh in on what is wrong with the proposed fracking regulations. On November 29th, the Governor authorized the DEC to file a 90-day extension to its initial November 29th deadline for releasing proposed regulations for fracking, paving the way for fracking to begin by spring. A 30-day comment period is in place that would start on December 12th and go through the holidays – which seems to be designed to limit public comment.

Governor Announces “Restarting” the Regulatory Process on Fracking

What’s Behind The Headlines?

This week Governor Cuomo announced that the state is “restarting” the regulatory process that would create the rules under which high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking) could proceed.  When asked why the state would be doing more work and undertaking a health impact review, he answered that “it will be a stronger review to withstand a legal challenge.”

Contrary to indications last week that he was likely to back away from fracking, the Governor strongly stated this week, “there is no step back.”

It’s unfortunate that the Governor has framed the need for a health review as a legal defense issue rather than as a critical element necessary to protect the public health.  None-the-less, now is the time for Governor Cuomo to demonstrate he has a high level of concern for the public’s health by elevating his current plan for an internal health review to hiring an independent entity to lead a comprehensive and rigorous Health Impact Assessment (HIA).  An HIA distinguishes itself from other kinds of public health investigations by using quantitative, qualitative and participatory techniques (learn more), and is the only process that will give the Governor the facts and data necessary to make science based decisions about fracking, his own frequently quoted fracking policy goal.

In an interview today on North Country Public Radio, Dr. David Carpenter, former employee of the state health department in the 1980s and Director of The Institute for Health and the Environment at SUNY’s School of Public Health said that while the agency has many competent health experts, working for a government that also has an agenda may compromise the work.   

“The Health Department is a political body, it reports to the governor,” said Carpenter. “It is not independent.”

He said that when they wanted to study radon in homes while he directed the Health Department’s laboratories during the Carey Administration they couldn’t do it because the Governor was promoting insulation for energy efficiency.  “We were not allowed to study what’s clearly a health hazard.”

Carpenter worries that with all the pressures from the gas drilling industry to allow fracking, as well as the state’s need for economic development, it might be hard for the Governor’s health department to remain objective.

The decision to “restart” the regulatory process is also an excellent opportunity to not only study the health impacts of fracking but also to study other critical elements that are missing from the current draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement before it becomes final. These include:

  • The cumulative impact of multiple wells within specific areas.  Currently the DEC has only looked at the impact on health and the environment of individual wells.
  • What is really going on in Pennsylvania and other states where fracking has been implemented. The frequent reports from the fracking fields are almost universally cautionary tales of serious health impacts, contamination of the water supply and air quality, as well as damage to the physical and social infrastructure.   if we commit ourselves to penetrating the obfuscation created by the non-disclosure agreements that the gas industry has imposed on individuals who have experienced problems, there is a lot to learn.

It is essential that all of us who have been working on this issue do not confuse the current move to study health impacts with progress or enlightenment by the Governor. Governor Cuomo has clearly stated that he is moving ahead with fracking and that the current delay is necessary to protect the state from what he expects will be a series of legal challenges. Catskill Mountainkeeper and others have been saying all along that the decision to frack in New York is a cold calculated risk assessment of how much damage will be done versus how much revenue can be collected for the state.  This is an effort to tilt those odds further.



Why New York Needs a Comprehensive Health Impact Assessment of Fracking

On Thursday September 20, Joseph Martens, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that the DEC will do a review of the potential public health effects of fracking. He said, “only after this evaluation is completed will a decision be made about whether to permit high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York…obviously, if there was a public health concern that could not be addressed, we would not proceed.”

Commissioner Marten’s response to the widespread concerns voiced by Catskill Mountainkeeper, medical professionals, concerned organizations and citizens is a welcome development in the regulatory process. However, his proposed “review of the potential public health effects of fracking” unfortunately falls far short of what is needed – which is a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment (HIA).

An HIA is the gold standard used to study health impact. The process insures that the best available science, and all relevant perspectives are brought to bear on the analysis.  It distinguishes itself from other kinds of public health investigations by being done in advance of any decision to approve or prohibit a proposed activity. It allows for public participation in scoping, hearings, reviews, meetings, and stakeholder consultations, especially with members of targeted communities. The health impact review proposed by Commissioner Martens is NOT an HIA.

In addition the HIA process would:

  • Identify the potential effects of shale gas extraction on the health of the people of New York State and describe what its effects will be on our citizens.  With 19.5 million people, New York is the third most populous state.  Even small increases in the incidence of chronic health problems could potentially impact thousands of people and create ruinous health care costs.
  • Consult independent experts from multiple disciplines to evaluate the complex hazards and exposures created by shale gas extraction.
  • Have special emphasis on vulnerable subpopulations including infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly.  For example, an HIA could examine the associated air pollution impacts on birth weight, childhood asthma, heart attack and stroke.
  • Analyze not only the causes of illness but also the conditions that affect health, which include personal behaviors, social and economic factors, the built environment, and the physical environment.
  • Consider the health risks from cumulative impacts and throughout the entire life cycle of shale gas extraction and transport including radon exposure from pipelines, radon in homes and apartments, exposures to lead and toxic chemicals and the potential for exposure to toxins from drilling wastes.
  • Examine occupational health risks to workers.
  • Recommend actions to minimize or eliminate the health effects that it identifies.

Please send an email using our easy to use form to Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Martens to thank them for agreeing that unless all public health concerns could be addressed, high-volume hydraulic fracturing would not proceed in New York and tell them that the only form of health review that will meet the high standards required is a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment (HIA). Our message to the Governor and the Commissioner is that to do any less would be an abdication of the state’s responsibility to protect the public’s health.


July 18, 2012 Action Alert: Fracking – There is a Viable Alternative

But First We Need to Stop It

Mark Z. Jacobson giving the Keynote at Barnfest 2012

Mark Z. Jacobson, director of Stanford’s Atmosphere/Energy Program mesmerized hundreds of Mountainkeeper supporters at last Saturday’s Barnfest with a doable plan to forgo fossil fuels and convert the globe to sustainable renewable energy by 2030.
Based on the findings of the research he did with Mark A. Delucchi, UC-Davis researcher, he said, “there are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources. It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will.”

Jacobson’s message is that we can do renewables now. We don’t have to wait. They are efficient, economically feasible and will ultimately cost us no more than what we are currently paying.

The plan proposes a world run largely on electricity with wind and solar power contributing 90% of all needed energy and the balance of energy supplied by geothermal, hydroelectric, wave and tidal power. It would be paid for by a 30 percent reduction in world energy demand by converting combustion processes to less expensive electrical or hydrogen fuel cell processes, plus a huge savings from reducing the human death toll due to air pollution, thus make the costs of the plan relatively similar to what we pay today.

The biggest challenges that face the large-scale implementation of renewable energy are the variability of wind and solar, the specialized elements needed to build turbines, solar collectors and other equipment and the footprint of the wind turbines and solar devices. But Jacobson said that all of these hurdles can be overcome.

Of course, Jacobson admitted the changeover to renewable energy would involve a large scale transformation and “would require an effort comparable to the Apollo moon project or constructing the interstate highway system.” But he left us with hope that there is a way forward without even having to go to new technologies. For more detailed information on Mark Z. Jacobson’s work, click here.


But our first order of business is to convince our government officials that natural gas is a bridge fuel to nowhere and there is no reason not to move aggressively to renewables right now. Please join us to send this message at the Stop the Frack Attack Rally on July 28, 2012 at the U.S. Capital in Washington, D.C., where people from all over the country will gather to tell Congress, the President and the world to end the rush to drill and STOP THE FRACK ATTACK.  We are pleased to announce that the following 14 people have been chosen to speak at the Stop the Frack Attack Rally! They are a group of impacted community members and environmental activists who are on the front lines of this nationally important issue.

1.) Bill McKibben (
2.) Allison Chin (Sierra Club)
3.) Josh Fox (Gasland)
4.) Calvin Tillman (Former Mayor of Dish, Texas)
5.) Laura Amos (Affected Community Member, CO)
6.) John Fenton (Affected Community Member, WY)
7.) Kari Matsko (Affected Community Member, OH)
8.) Dayne Pratzky (Aka,”Frackman”, Australia)
9.) Lori New Breast (Affected Community Member, MT)
11.) Mike Tidwell (CCAN)
12.) Jameson Lisak and Kelly Humphreys ( Affected Youth from PA and WV)
13.) Dr Catherine Thomasson (Physicians for Social Responsibility )
14.)  Doug Shields (former member of the Pittsburgh City Council)

Catskill Mountainkeeper is sponsoring a bus to the rally in Washington, DC on Saturday, July 28th — click here to register for the bus

Departs:  Liberty Elks Lodge Parking Lot at 6:00am

Returns:  Liberty Elks Lodge Parking Lot at 12:00am (midnight)***

Visit the website for more information.