Want to look at it for yourself?
Some initial responses from the Natural Resource Defense Council….
Our first impression of the new draft environmental study is that it has left a boatload of unresolved issues and unanswered questions in its wake.
Here are four quick examples:
- Fracking in Floodplains – The recent and tragic flooding in the Catskills and other parts of upstate New York following Tropical Storm Irene is further proof, if any is needed, that floodplains are no place for industrial activities, including gas drilling. While the state is correctly proposing to prohibit well-pad development in floodplains, it would apparently allow other fracking-related activities (infrastructure, holding ponds, etc) in and under such areas.
- Impacts on Local Communities from Rapid Industrialization – The state’s draft study does not provide an effective mechanism to insure that local communities will be protected from the overwhelming industrial onslaught that comes with fracking (from heavy drilling and excavating equipment, to traffic, air and water pollution, and the like) should drilling proceed in a particular area.
- Disposal of Hazardous Fracking Wastewaters – There are currently no wastewater treatment plants in New York State equipped to treat wastewaters from high-volume fracking operations. And the draft study is unacceptably vague on what will become of the tens of millions of gallons of toxic wastewaters produced in NYS if fracking operations move forward here.
- Continuing Threats to NYC and Syracuse Water Supply Infrastructure – While wisely proposing to place the unfiltered New York City and Syracuse watersheds off limits to fracking, the draft study provides very limited protection, if any, to the critical aqueducts and tunnels that carry water from our reservoirs. From a public health and emergency preparedness standpoint, allowing risky drilling activities to occur near aging and vulnerable water supply infrastructure is an unreasonable risk.
Fracking is dangerous and it is destructive. It puts our workers, our waters, our air and wildlife at risk. NRDC will not support fracking – in New York State or anywhere else – unless we have done everything possible to address those risks.
It will take us and our technical experts some time to comb through the EIS and provide a detailed assessment. But at first-blush, we’re seeing some red flags:
- The state gives fracking a greenlight in our watersheds, and there are no limits in special ecological areas. NRDC, environmental allies and a slew of elected officials have called for especially vulnerable and valuable areas (including the New York City watershed) to be placed off-limits, and, of course, for the most stringent safety precautions where drills are allowed to break ground.
- It underestimates the potential scale of the costs. The law requires that cumulative impacts be evaluated – in other words, the state must assume gas companies will drill as much as they are allowed to. But on first read, it doesn’t. One thing we can be certain of is that gas prices and other economic indicators will drive how quickly the Marcellus is developed. A reasonable worst-case assumption is the appropriate means of letting the public know what the maximum, reasonably likely potential impacts will be.
- DEC practically shuts the door on the public. DEC has only provided the public with 60 days to review and comment on this massive document. Yet this is thelast opportunity the public has to weigh-in on a major new industrial activity that has the potential to contaminate our water supplies, air and land if not properly managed. Equally troubling, the state is not providing for public hearings – just “informational sessions,” at which the public will not be allowed to testify.