‘Same River’ Comes to Sullivan County!

Same River Poster

Catskill Mountainkeeper is excited to be a part-sponsor of the upcoming performance of ‘Same River’ at NACL Theatre*!

Same River is an improvised, inter-disciplinary performance based on local residents about water and the effects fracking has on communities.

The show will be at NACL Theatre in Highland Lake on Sunday, September 8th, at 4:00 pm and will be performed by The Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble.

Tickets are limited, so be sure to get yours’ today!

When: Sunday, September 8th, at 4:00 pm
Where:  NACL Theatre, 110 Highland Lake Rd, Highland Lake, NY

Strike Anywhere was founded in NYC in 1997 to promote empathy, free-thinking, and greater social awareness through provocative theatre and educational outreach.
We were fortunate enough to have a quick conversation with SAPE’s Artistic/Producing Director, Leese Walker about the show. Here is some of what she had to say:

CMK: Why did you all decide to create a show focused on the community impacts of fracking?

LWI first learned about fracking when we were invited to perform at NACL’s 10th Annual Catskill Festival of New Theatre in 2010.  We were working on a new format for interdisciplinary improvisation and so I asked NACL’s Artistic Director, Tannis Kowalchuk, if there were any themes running through the festival programming that year.  She responded, “Water.  Definitely water.”  So I thought, “OK let’s make a show about water”.  I asked about local water issues and several people mentioned fracking.   I knew very little about it at that time.  As an ensemble, we researched the process and surrounding issues and came to do an intensive residency in the area.   I had never done an interview-based process before and had been waiting for the right project to come along to employ it.  This seemed perfect.  That first foray into the show SAME RIVER in 2010 was a bold experiment in using an interview process to launch an improvised show.  When we started, we thought the show was about water and fracking.   As we dug in deeper over the last 3 years, we discovered that the show is really about how drilling has impacted communities and relationships.  Water is still present in the show. The dancer who plays the character of water serves as a witness throughout the piece. 

CMK: You interviewed a wide range of people from our communities to create the basis of the show. How did you connect with these people and what was the interview process like?

LWWe perform a residency in conjunction with this show on every stop of our tour.  Having this time in the community allows us to conduct new interviews in each place and custom design the show to reflect the host community.  When we were here three years ago, the show was totally improvised.  Now we have a set structure and characters that are present in every performance but the actual dialogue within those scenes is improvised based on the interviews.  NACL, our host, served as the liaison.  They connected us with different community members so we could gather a wide range of voices for the piece.
The interview process this time around was particularly special because we have been here before and we met with many of the same people that we met with three years ago.  It has been interesting to see how things have changed and what has stayed the same.  It has been wonderful to reconnect with people and I can’t wait to show them how much the show has evolved since 2010.  We have a beautiful production now replete with video projections, stunning lighting design and costumes – if you haven’t seen it before, we are a company of jazz musicians, dancers and actors so the piece is interdisciplinary. 

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CMK: What were the biggest surprises/challenges that arose while collecting these stories?

LWWell, the biggest surprise has probably been to discover how multifaceted people are- all the shades of gray, the conflicting ideas within each person.  Another surprise has been to hear some of the same language coming from the mouths of the most polarized voices on the spectrum, similar phrases or similar examples to prove their point.   It is funny to me.  The project has helped me to humanize viewpoints I disagree with.  I hope it will do the same for audience members. 

CMK: The performances are very audience-driven and participatory. How much has this impacted the tone and content of each performance?

LWEvery incarnation of Same River is different.  It really takes on the flavor of each place that we visit.  We try to capture the conversation.  So naturally, the tone and content morphs and changes to reflect the communities we visit.
We also use a variety of community engagement strategies wherever we go.  We figure out what the host would like to accomplish and custom design an approach to meet those needs.  In past incarnations of the show, we have performed extended residencies in high schools in conjunction with the show http://www.strikeanywhere.info/videos.cfm?VID=wXwVPx1D_2M.  We have had students craft new scenes and join us on stage. We have had community members come out and help us build the set.  At one high school, students worked with an installation artist to create an interactive, large-scale art installation which served as the first act of the show.  We always include a post-show town hall discussion.  This is really important to us because the point of the show is to instigate discussion.  We have found that in a lot of the places we visit, communication has broken down. We hope that by authentically presenting multiple voices on stage we can promote empathy and help to heal divides.

*NACL Theatre is a professional, not-for-profit company that has created over 15 original and ensemble theatre productions since 1997.  To learn more about NACL, and to learn about ways you can support the theatre, please visit their website here.

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WELCOME TO THE TRAILKEEPER NETWORK PROGRAM OF CATSKILL MOUNTAINKEEPER
The Trailkeeper Network is dedicated to promoting public awareness of hiking trails and outdoor resources.  Click here to visit the Trailkeeper Network website.

The newest project of the Trailkeeper Network is the the Sullivan County Trailkeeper.
Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 1.46.45 PMCatskill Mountainkeeper and its partners the Delaware Highlands Conservancy, the Sullivan County Division of Planning and Environmental Management, the Sullivan County Visitors Association, and Morgan Outdoors, with assistance from the Upper Delaware Council, Sullivan Renaissance, the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, the National Park Service, Sullivan County Community College Hiking Class, and many volunteers have created TrailKeeper.org, a one-source resource for hiking trails and local area attractions and amenities in Sullivan County, NY.

TrailKeeper.org contains area trail maps, hiker hints, tips and photos, recommendations for specific trails , information about local shops, lodgings, restaurants and attractions.  It makes Sullivan County’s extensive network of trails, some of the finest in New York State, more accessible and promotes the Catskills as an attractive destination for eco-tourists.  The trail information matches hikers to trails, whether you are a seasoned hiker looking for a challenge or a beginner testing your hiking legs for the first time. Its easy-to-read, easy-to-access maps, facilities information and guides make hiking safer, more accessible and more fun.

Whether you are a resident or visitor we encourage you to use TrailKeeper.org to get out and explore this special part of the Catskills.

PRESIDENT OBAMA DON’T FRACK AMERICA! SIGN THE PETITION.

Tell the President and the BLM: Don’t Frack America’s Public Lands!

In his recent speech on climate change, President Obama announced his intent to rapidly increase domestic production of oil and gas. Part of his plan? To cooperate with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to open 600 million acres of Federal and Native American land, including our national parks, for fracking.Please sign the petition below by Aug. 23, 2013. Tell the BLM: Don’t frack America’s public lands!

Also, on Aug. 21, please join hundreds of thousands of Americans for a national call-in day to President Obama. Call the President at 1-888-660-2594 and ask him to protect our public lands from fracking.

Most of the lands targeted for fracking are managed by the BLM, a federal agency that recently revised, and significantly weakened, its rules for fracking on public lands.

We should be protecting America’s cherished public lands, open spaces, historic structures, archaeological sites and iconic landscapes for future generations, not defiling them. These resources represent our shared history and an irreplaceable part of our national heritage.

But if President Obama and the BLM get their way, these cherished lands will be treated as nothing more than a commodity, to be exploited for profit by greedy, profit-hungry oil and gas companies.

Recent reports suggest that fracking is contaminating our groundwater with arsenic and other heavy metals. Is that the legacy we want to leave our kids?

Our only chance to stop President Obama and the BLM is to speak out, loud and clear, in large numbers.

Here are two ways you can help:

•    On Aug. 21, you can join Americans against Fracking for a national call-in day to President Obama. Call the President
at 1-888-660-2594. You can tell him: “Fracking threatens the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the communities we love and the climate on which we all depend. We need to ban fracking now.” 

•    Until Aug. 23, the BLM is seeking public comments on its proposal to weaken the rules for fracking on public lands. Please sign the petition below by Aug. 23 asking the BLM to ban fracking on public lands, not weaken existing rules.

Fracking and farms cannot co-exist, as we’ve heard over and over from farmers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Dakota, West Virginia and Colorado – farmers whose lives and farms have been ruined by fracking’s methane emissions and toxic chemicals. As one farmer explained, “We depend on good water for our cows, our crops and our own health. Once you mess up your groundwater, you can’t fix it.”

Natural gas and oil development is already the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S. The climate change footprint of natural gas, once the extraction process and the resulting methane is factored in, is worse than coal. (Methane is a greenhouse gas that is up to 105 times more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide).

According to the U.S. Energy and Information Administration, if we pursue natural gas as a central component of our energy portfolio as planned, we’ll suffer an increase in temperature of approximately 7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2060.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION ON OUR PATNER’S SITE THE ORGANIC CONSUMER ASSOCIATION
These are our lands! It’s time to send a clear message to President Obama and the BLM: Fracking threatens the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the communities we love and the climate on which we all depend.

Gangplank to a Warm Future

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

New York Times

By ANTHONY R. INGRAFFEA
Published: July 28, 2013 

Cornell University professor Anthony R. Ingraffea makes the case why gas is not a bridge fuel to anywhere.

ITHACA, N.Y. — MANY concerned about climate change, including President Obama, have embraced hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. In his recent climate speech, the president went so far as to lump gas with renewables as “clean energy.”
As a longtime oil and gas engineer who helped develop shale fracking techniques for the Energy Department, I can assure you that this gas is not “clean.” Because of leaks of methane, the main component of natural gas, the gas extracted from shale deposits is not a “bridge” to a renewable energy future — it’s a gangplank to more warming and away from clean energy investments.

Methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, though it doesn’t last nearly as long in the atmosphere. Still, over a 20-year period, one pound of it traps as much heat as at least 72 pounds of carbon dioxide. Its potency declines, but even after a century, it is at least 25 times as powerful as carbon dioxide. When burned, natural gas emits half the carbon dioxide of coal, but methane leakage eviscerates this advantage because of its heat-trapping power.

And methane is leaking, though there is significant uncertainty over the rate. But recent measurements by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at gas and oil fields in California, Colorado and Utah found leakage rates of 2.3 percent to 17 percent of annual production, in the range my colleagues at Cornell and I predicted some years ago. This is the gas that is released into the atmosphere unburned as part of the hydraulic fracturing process, and also from pipelines, compressors and processing units. Those findings raise questions about what is happening elsewhere. The Environmental Protection Agency has issued new rules to reduce these emissions, but the rules don’t take effect until 2015, and apply only to new wells.

A 2011 study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research concluded that unless leaks can be kept below 2 percent, gas lacks any climate advantage over coal. And a study released this May by Climate Central, a group of scientists and journalists studying climate change, concluded that the 50 percent climate advantage of natural gas over coal is unlikely to be achieved over the next three to four decades. Unfortunately, we don’t have that long to address climate change — the next two decades are crucial.

To its credit, the president’s plan recognizes that “curbing emissions of methane is critical.” However, the release of unburned gas in the production process is not the only problem. Gas and oil wells that lose their structural integrity also leak methane and other contaminants outside their casings and into the atmosphere and water wells. Multiple industry studies show that about 5 percent of all oil and gas wells leak immediately because of integrity issues, with increasing rates of leakage over time. With hundreds of thousands of new wells expected, this problem is neither negligible nor preventable with current technology.

Why do so many wells leak this way? Pressures under the earth, temperature changes, ground movement from the drilling of nearby wells and shrinkage crack and damage the thin layer of brittle cement that is supposed to seal the wells. And getting the cement perfect as the drilling goes horizontally into shale is extremely challenging. Once the cement is damaged, repairing it thousands of feet underground is expensive and often unsuccessful. The gas and oil industries have been trying to solve this problem for decades.

The scientific community has been waiting for better data from the E.P.A. to assess the extent of the water contamination problem. That is why it is so discouraging that, in the face of industry complaints, the E.P.A. reportedly has closed or backed away from several investigations into the problem. Perhaps a full E.P.A. study of hydraulic fracturing and drinking water, due in 2014, will be more forthcoming. In addition, drafts of an Energy Department study suggest that there are huge problems finding enough water for fracturing future wells. The president should not include this technology in his energy policy until these studies are complete.

We have renewable wind, water, solar and energy-efficiency technology options now. We can scale these quickly and affordably, creating economic growth, jobs and a truly clean energy future to address climate change. Political will is the missing ingredient. Meaningful carbon reduction is impossible so long as the fossil fuel industry is allowed so much influence over our energy policies and regulatory agencies. Policy makers need to listen to the voices of independent scientists while there is still time.

Anthony R. Ingraffea is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell University and the president of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, a nonprofit group.

 

Thanks for joining us at Barnfest! Check out great video footage, photos, celebrity interviews and more!


Thank you for joining us on a beautiful summer afternoon in Woodstock!

Over 1,500 Mountainkeeper supporters came together on a gorgeous summer afternoon to celebrate what we all love about the Catskills.  Everyone at Mountainkeeper had a wonderful time, and we hope you did too.  Click on the links below for great video footage, photos, radio interviews and articles.

To see a great highlight video of Barnfest, click here.

To see beautiful photos of Barnfest, visit our Facebook page.

Above: Catskill Mountainkeeper board member ,Joshua Ginsburg, PhD, and family with Parrots for Peace.

Hear Jayni and Chevy talk about Barnfest, the environment, and their personal ties to Woodstock in an engaging interview on wdst, Radio Woodstock.

And just a few of the many wonderful articles about Barnfest:

“Chases honored, Woodstock celebrated at Barnfest” – by Deb Medenbach, Times Herald Record.

“Barnfest to Feature Music, entertainment and stars in Woodstock” - by Lynn Woods, Weekly Almanac.

“Chevy Chase talks Woodstock, Bard College and the environment” – interview with Chevy Chase by John Barry, Poughkeepsie Journal.

THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO HELPED MAKE BARNFEST A SUCCESS!

and A SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR LEAD SPONSORS:

Action Alert: Stop the Industrialization of NY!

Gas industry touts energy independence, but builds infrastructure for export

Despite the gas industry’s patriotic declarations of energy independence in their relentless ad inundation in radio, print, and TV media, it appears they have a different plan when it comes to natural gas.  The gas companies are pressing forward with aggressive development for a massive infrastructure that will allow these companies to export natural gas overseas – enabling these billion-dollar corporations to tap into lucrative international markets and drive up corporate profit even further.

The scale of the planned infrastructure projects is enormous.  In New York alone, there are currently seven major pipelines (Blue Stone, Constitution, Mark Connector, Millennium Phase I, Rockaway, and Spectra), a gas storage facility at Seneca Lake, multiple compressor stations including ones in Hancock and Minisink and a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) processing facility, the Port Ambrose project, to be placed in the ocean off of the coasts of New York and New Jersey, which are in various stages of the approval process.

If the gas industry’s plan succeeds, the big winners will be the stockholders of the natural gas companies and the big losers will be the rest of us.

WE NEED YOU TO ACT NOW!

  1. Stop the Ambrose Project! A LNG processing facility in the waters off New York and New Jersey, with its threat to water and air quality is totally unacceptable. Governor Cuomo has the power to veto the application permit.PLEASE CALL THE GOVERNOR at 518-474-8390 or 212-681-4580 and ask him to protect the environment and people of New York State by vetoing the “Port Ambrose” LNG processing facility.

  2. Register your disapproval of the Port Ambrose project by submitting your comments here,
    or 
to:
    U.S. Department of Transportation
    Docket Management Facility
West Building
    Ground Floor,  Room W12-140
    1200 New Jersey AvenueSE
 Washington, DC 20590Refer to docket number USCG-2013-0363, and tell the DOT that the Ambrose Project is a major threat to our oceans, air, and water quality, and health, and will exacerbate climate change.Comments are due by August 22, 2013, so submit yours’ today!
  3. Tell Your U.S. Representative to vote ‘NO’ on the “HR 1900 National Gas Pipelines Permitting Report Act”
The “HR 1900 National Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act” would fast track approval for all interstate gas pipelines by requiring that the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) process applications within only one year, and is slated to come before the full House for a vote soon. This new time limitation would more than halve the time that FERC would have to study the impact of each infrastructure project and, if passed by the full Congress, would result in severely limiting public comment and almost guarantee the approval of infrastructure projects prior to conducting critical due diligence.
    WE MUST STOP THIS BILL!
    Please write to your Representative and tell them to vote “NO” on HR 1900.

We’re well acquainted with the dire environmental and health consequences of drilling and fracking for gas in local communities, but proposals like the LNG facility in the waters off New York and New Jersey and the proposed pipelines and compressor stations would bring these hazards to every community through which the gas would be transported, causing contamination and leaked methane – the main component of natural gas – which is a potent greenhouse gas.

Today, Catskill Mountainkeeper is joining Earthjustice, Riverkeeper, Clean Act Council, Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and the Sierra Club to file extensive comments to urge the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to deny the application for the Constitution Pipeline. Building a massive natural gas infrastructure is the wrong choice for New York and our country.  It must be stopped. Catskill Mountainkeeper is fighting hard to raise awareness of the dangers of continuing along this treacherous path and is advocating for renewable, sustainable energy choices.

Study Co-Sponsored By Mountainkeeper Shows Outdoor Recreation on Catskill Lands Brings Millions of People and Millions of Dollars

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PDF of Catskills Study

February 6, 2013 —

REGION — The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is touting the beneficial impacts of its reservoirs and other holdings on the Catskills, which are highlighted in a new study commissioned by the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development (CCCD), Catskill Mountainkeeper (CMK), and Catskill Heritage Alliance (CHA).

According to the study, outdoor recreational activities that rely on public and protected lands attract a total of 1,717,927 visitors annually. These visitors had an estimated economic impact on the region’s economy of $46,207,000 and supported 980 jobs. Furthermore, all outdoor recreational activities, including both those that rely on public and protected lands and those that rely on private lands, attracted a total of 2,496,753 visitors. These visitors had an estimated economic impact of $114,768,000 on the region’s economy and supported 2,413 jobs.

“This economic impact study confirms with hard data the exceptional economic potential of this landscape of mountains, forests, streams, farmland and villages,” said Kathy Nolan, chair of the Catskill Heritage Alliance. “It shows the choice before us in dollar terms: erode what nature gave us and undermine our economic sustainability, or build on the potential to strengthen the economic future of the region.”

“The new numbers confirm what we’ve known for a long time,” echoed Ramsay Adams, founder and executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper. “The natural beauty of our region is a unique, world-class asset.”

Carter Strickland, the commissioner of the DEP, which employs nearly 1,000 people in the watershed, said, “We are proud that our efforts to encourage recreation throughout the watershed have strengthened the tourism economy that has been a hallmark of the Catskills for decades. New York City currently owns 114,833 acres in the Catskills that are open for fishing, hiking, boating and other forms of low impact recreation that attract people from other regions of the state and country. In the past five years alone, we have removed the permit requirements from 52,198 acres of that recreation land, making it even easier for our neighbors and visitors to enjoy.”

The economic impacts generated by recreational activities, and of the operations of organizations that protect and manage the natural areas of the Catskills, were estimated using the Money Generation Model (MGM) economic impact. These models were developed for the National Park Service and have been used for similar evaluations of many parks around the country.  READ THE ENTIRE RIVER REPORTER ARTICLE HERE

WATCH THE VIDEO PRESENTATION BY STUDY AUTHOR BRIAN ZWEIG,  KATHY NOLAN FROM MOUNTAINKEEPER AND OUR OTHER STUDY PARTNERS.

How celebrities helped rattle N.Y. politics — and launch a new movement

Colin Sullivan, E&E reporter — EnergyWire

THIS STORY IS SUBSCRIPTION ONLY:  BELOW IS AN EXCERPT

TO READ THE ENTIRE STORY CLICK HERE
Debra Winger

Debra Winger. Photo courtesy of the National Institutes of Health.

…Of these celebrities, Winger, a three-time best actress nominee at the Academy Awards, has been singled out as first to the party on the issue, though Ruffalo might be a close second. Winger was instrumental in helping to gain startup-style attention before the 2010 Sundance Film Festival for “Gasland,” the Oscar-nominated documentary about the natural gas industry, and has since been heavily involved in demanding the Cuomo administration keep fracking out of the Empire State.

Yet Winger and others insist their anti-fracking movement isn’t about celebrity or capitalizing on fame. She says she is not an environmentalist and would have preferred to stay out of politics altogether, partly due to the perception that celebrities with too much time on their hands (or too little information) get involved with pet causes out of vanity.

“The celebrities who have really been drawn into this fight have all been residents,” he said. “You’re talking about New York City’s watershed. That’s a lot of celebrities.”

The story behind how Ruffalo got dialed into the movement, which Fox said is driven mostly by regular citizens, is similar. Ramsay Adams, founder and executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, an upstate conservation group, said he approached Ruffalo at a diner in Callicoon, N.Y., and got him to join a trip to Dimock, Pa., with environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in 2010.

What Ruffalo saw in Dimock, whose residents have claimed illness due to shale gas extraction, was good enough to get the actor on board, Adams said. He believes this was in part due to Ruffalo’s energy but also because at the time there was a bit of a dip in activist motivation after failures in Congress to enact a national climate change policy.

“He lives [in Callicoon] full time,” Adams said of Ruffalo, in reference to the Catskills community on the Delaware River. “He’s got kids and a family, and they were in school nearby. He eventually said, ‘Let me know what I can do.’”

Adams added: “It was really fertile ground for the rebuilding of a grass-roots movement. That’s really the message about what fracking has done. I see it as the fight over extreme energy and climate.”

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.