November 10, 2009, Times Herald Record: NYC rally aims to stop drilling in watershed Local groups seek same

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


But what about other places that sit on the gas-rich Marcellus shale, such as Sullivan County, which includes just a sliver of the watershed?

The rally organizer, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, isn't ready to call for a blanket ban before a hearing on the state's new gas drilling regulations.

"This is a first step of a larger dialogue of stakeholders," he says.

But environmental groups such as Catskill Mountainkeeper, which will be at the rally and hearing, want a watershed ban to spread throughout the state.

"If it's not good enough for New York City, it's not good enough for the rest of the state. It would set a precedent and say drilling isn't safe," says Ramsay Adams, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper in the western Sullivan hamlet of Youngsville.

He cites recent articles that, he says, illustrate the dangers of drilling. One details a state Health Department memo about radioactive wastewater from drilling thousands of feet underground. Another chronicles accidents uncovered by an upstate researcher.

But supporters of drilling, who have been vastly outnumbered at public hearings, discount the calls for bans.

They come from "extreme environmentalists who have no understanding of the science," says Sullivan County's Noel Van Swol, who heads a group that wants to lease some 70,000 acres. Besides, he says, banning drilling on private property would be unconstitutional. Plus, the proposed Department of Environmental Conservation regulations would be "the strongest in the country and able to deal with every contingency possible."

Those regulations are another point of contention for environmental groups such as Catskill Mountainkeeper, which has been working with the DEC, but now feels betrayed by it.

"We started out in good faith, but our concerns have been belittled and ignored," says Adams. "The DEC is really an economic arm of the state, not an environmental protection arm."

Public comment session at the hearing will take place at 6:30 p.m. at Stuyvesant High School, 345 Chambers St. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

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