MAP – Tompkins

The Marcellus Accountability Project
for Tompkins County
DEC Releases Draft SGEIS on Sept. 30, 2009

On September 30, 2009, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released its long-awaited draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) on “Well Permit Issuance for Horizontal Drilling and High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing to Develop the Marcellus Shale and Other Low-Permeability Gas Reservoirs.”

Links to Draft SGEIS and DEC Press Release
Paper Copies of the Draft SGEIS Available

Talking Points on the Draft SGEIS (Suggested Comments to Make)
Comments on the Draft SGEIS from Various Organizations
Comments on the Draft SGEIS from Individuals
Testimony on the Draft SGEIS

Articles about the Draft SGEIS

Town Resolutions to Withdraw the Draft SGEIS
Municipal Resolutions About the Draft SGEIS

Background Information on the SGEIS, GEIS, and Final Scope

Links to Draft SGEIS and DEC Press Release

DEC Web Page with “Executive Summary” of SGEIS
Not actually an executive summary, but brief background on the SGEIS and a 1-paragraph description.

Note that the wording in this press release leaves much open to debate (for example, to whom will fracking fluid composition be disclosed?).  Also, a quick scan of the SGEIS turns up contradictory language as to whether or not steel-lined tanks are required for all on-site storage of flowback fluids. Only a careful reading of the 809-page document over the next few days and weeks will clarify some of these issues.

Paper Copies of the Draft SGEIS Available

On October 9, concerned citizens at Shaleshock and the Marcellus Accountability Project donated paper copies paid for privately to the Tompkins County Public Library, the Shaleshock Office above Autumn Leaves Bookstore on the Ithaca Commons, Brookton’s Market in Brooktondale, the Town of Caroline Library, and the Ithaca Town Offices. Copies are also available at the Candor Free Library at the corner of Main and Bank Streets, and at the reserve collection on the first floor of the Memorial Library at SUNY Cortland, on Prospect Terrace.

For locations where DEC has made paper copies of the Draft SGEIS available check:
  Tompkins County is Region 7.  By 12/1/09 most, but not all, of these locations had copies.

 Talking Points on the Draft SGEIS

Helen Slottje's Draft SGEIS Commenting Suggestions
Thorough, detailed, specific suggestions for comments to make, referenced to page number in the SGEIS. A wide variety of topics is covered, including water withdrawal, use, dispersal, and contamination; centralized impoundments of flowback; chemicals; air pollution; absence of rules, regulations, funding, and inspections; cumulative impacts; geological impacts; and impacts on wildlife, plant life, communities, and municipalities.

EarthJustice Preliminary Suggestions for Comments on Draft SGEIS (11/4/09)

Cornell Law School Water Law Clinic Evaluation of dSGEIS Ch. 7: 187 New Tasks for DEC are in this One Chapter!  To see the SGEIS Comments Generated, click here.

Catskill Mountainkeeper: 15 Reasons Why the DEC Draft SEGEIS Report Needs to be Rewritten

Radioactivity Concerns and Recommendations to DEC on the Draft SGEIS from the Town of Dryden

NYFSESS Issues Document for the SGEIS by Michael Lebron and Stanley Scobie

Comments on the Draft SGEIS from Various Organizations

Independent Oil And Gas Association of New York (12/31/09)
Provides some interesting insight into the industy's thinking about the draft regulations.

Tompkins County Planning Department (12/30/09)

NYC DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) Cover Letter (12/22/09)

NYC DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) (12/22/09)

DEC Employees' Union: NYS Public Employees Federation AFL-CIO, Division 169 (12/28/09)
This union represents nearly 2,000 professional, technical, and scientific staff working at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. They have submitted comments that include a request for an extension of the comment deadline for 30 more days, and a suggestion to not allow any hydraulic fracturing in NYS until after the EPA has completed its study. They also note many inadequacies in the Draft SGEIS.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (12/30/09)

NYS Conference of Environmental Health Directors (12/30/09)

Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project (12/15/09)

Syracuse City Water Department (12/30/09)

Cortland County Agriculture, Planning, and Environment Committee (12/28/09)

Cortland County Health Department (12/18/09)

Cortland County Planning Department (12/21/09)

Tompkins County Council of Governments (12/17/09)

Tompkins County Legislature

Tompkins County Environmental Management Council (11/19/09)

Tompkins County Water Resources Council

Tompkins County Health Department (12/21/09)

Town of Danby Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling Task Force
A paper copy of the Appendix is at the Danby Town Hall.

Town of Freetown Planning Board (12/30/09)
Jim Weiss, Chair

Town of Ithaca (12/23/09)

Town of Ulysses Resolution to Withdraw Draft SGEIS, including Comments on Draft SGEIS (12/7/09)

Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy

Cayuga Lake Watershed Network (12/29/09)

Citizens Campaign for the Environment (12/31/09)

Cornell Law School’s Water Law Clinic Draft SGEIS Comments
To see the attachment, detailing the 187 new tasks DEC will need to perform, click here.

Delaware Riverkeeper (12/30/09)

Environmental Advocates, National Wildlife Federation, & Atlantic States Legal Foundation (12/31/09)

Finger Lakes Land Trust

Finger Lakes Trail Conference

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): Cover Letter (12/30/09)

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): Lawyer's Comments (12/30/09)

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): Hydrologic Consultant Comments (12/28/09)

NRDC Appendix: Adherence of dSGEIS to Final Scope

NRDC Appendix: Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Review

NRDC Appendix: Best Technology and Best Practice Recommendations

NRDC Appendix: Casing Regulation Recommendations

NRDC Appendix: Data and Analyses That Are Missing

NRDC Appendix: Noise Analysis

NRDC Appendix: Toxicology Report

Otsego 2000 (12/30/09)

Riverkeeper (12/28/09)

Riverkeeper Appendix 1: Case Studies

Riverkeeper Appendix 2: CEA Engineers Report

Riverkeeper Appendix 3: NYS DOH Environmental Radiation Memo

Riverkeeper Appendix 4: Permit Protocols

Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association

Schuyler County Environmental Management Council (12/30/09)

Tioga Investigates Natural Gas (TING)

Trout Unlimited (12/31/09)

Mark Dunau (Northeast Organic Farming Association of NY and Delaware Co. Farm Bureau)

Steve Penningroth (Community Science Institute)

Barbara Arrindell (Damascus Citizens for Sustainability)


Comments on the Draft SGEIS from Individuals

Public Hearing in Ithaca on 11/19/09
This TCCOG webpage has links to individual written comments collected on November 11, 2009
plus a full transcript of the hearing.

Video of Public Hearing in Ithaca on 11/19/09

Maurice D. Hinchey, U.S. Representative for New York's 22nd District (12/22/09)

Matthew T. Ryan, Mayor of Binghamton (12/29/09)

Sen. Antoine Thompson, Chair, NYS Senate Environmental Conservation Committee (12/31/09)

Michelle Bamberger, DVM, & Robert Oswald, Dept. of Molecular Medicine, Cornell University (12/28/09)

Steve Coffman (12/31/09)

Professor Charles Geisler, Department of Developmental Sociology, Cornell University (12/29/09)

David Kay, Economist and Sr. Extension Associate, Cornell University, and Jeffrey Jacquet, Sociologist, Cornell University (12/31/09)

Dr. Adam Law, Endocrinologist (IthacaMed)

Carl Leopold (Plant Physiologist at Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University)

George Mathewson, Former DEC Region 7 Attorney (12/21/09)

Bill Podulka (12/31/09)

Helen Slottje, Esq. (12/31/09)

Sharinne Sukhnanand and Daniel Fink (12/21/09)

Joseph Wilson (lawyer, public official, educator from Ithaca, NY)


 Testimony on the Draft SGEIS

SGEIS Testimony from Susan Riha, NYS Water Resources Institute (at Cornell)
October 15, 2009 testimony before the NYS Assembly in Albany. (1) She addresses the potential for large water withdrawals for hydrofracturing to disrupt ecosystems. She says that the SGEIS should include a "more detailed analysis and explanation of how to permit water withdrawals in currently unregulated basins" [such as the Great Lakes Basin] She also states that the SGEIS should address water withdrawal sites in terms of "adequacy of roads, .... reasonable setbacks for truck loading pads, impact of truck traffic on local residents, etc."  (2) She discusses the inadequacy of the draft SGEIS regulations to protect surface water and ground water from pollution. She says that drilling muds, cuttings, and flowback (waste fracking fluid) should be fully contained [stored in closed tanks] when onsite, and that cuttings should be ultimately sent to a land fill. She says that the SGEIS should include an analysis of the "potential cumulative impacts of flowback water disposal through release [from treatment plants] to surface waters, particularly with respect to total dissolved solids." She also states that the SGEIS should quantify the possible cumulative impacts of gas well drilling on "community infrastructure and social services" and give at least a "semi-quantitative analysis of a range of potential mitigation strategies."

SGEIS Testimony from Anthony Hay, Director of Cornell's Institute for Comparative and Environmental Toxicology, before NYS Assembly in Albany
October 15, 2009 testimony on the risks that "flowback fluids and production brines pose to human and environmental health." He stated (1) "Collapsible reservoirs with secondary containment" should be used for storage instead of open pits. (2) Benzene (a known human carcinogen) and other petroleum distillates should be banned from use in drilling because more benign alternatives exist and many companies have phased them out in other places. (3) The biocide 4-nitroquinoline-N-oxide should be banned from use as it is a human mutagen and alternatives exist. The legislature should demand to know why it is found at high concentrations in flowback (as listed in the SGEIS) although it is not listed as a drilling fluid constituent in the SGEIS. (4) Nonylphenol and octylphenol ethoxylate surfactants also should be banned because they can degrade to endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen and pose health risks even at extremely low concentrations, and are likely to go undetected. Alternative surfactants exist.  (5) The DEC admits that more work needs to be done to understand the risk of radioactivity in production brines. Therefore, they should not be spread on roads until the risk is known.

Dusty Horwitt (10/23/09) Testimony on SGEIS in New York City

Testimony of Senior Counsel at Environmental Working Group before the NYC Council Committee on Environmental Protection.  He reports that based on the amount of petroleum distillate (such as benzene) likely to be used in fracturing, it could take more water than is used by New York City in a single day to dilute to a safe level the benzene in a spill at just one well.  Depending on the details, it could take more than the water used by the entire state of New York on a single day.  He lists numerous cases of benzene getting into surface and ground water from drilling. He requests a ban on hydraulic fracturing in the watershed for NYC’s drinking supply and in all other areas where water supplies could be contaminated. He also requests extending the comment period on the SGEIS, banning all chemicals that have not been shown to be safe, and full disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking.

SGEIS Testimony from Michael Lebron, New Yorkers for Sustainable Energy Solutions Statewide,  before NYS Assembly in Albany
October 15, 2009 Testimony developed with Dr. Stanley Scobie suggests that because gas wells, pipelines, and compressors are very closely related, their regulation should not be separated as it is currently, with wells under DEC and pipelines and compressors under the Public Service Commission, and that this may be illegal under SEQRA. Lebron and Scobie argue that cumulative effects of all these structures must be considered together, and that the state should not subsidize the building of pipelines, as that is inappropriate corporate welfare. [Editor’s note: Subsidies should be included in any economic evaluation of gas drilling.] Their testimony also points out that houses less than 300 feet from an active or planned drilling site (well pad) are not eligible for insurance for FHA financing.

Finger Lakes Land Trust Testimony

Articles about the Draft SGEIS

Letter requesting that Governor Paterson withdraw the draft SGEIS for Oil and Gas Mining. The letter
states that “The Draft SGEIS is based on one critical, bedrock assumption: DEC's 1992 GEIS adequately safeguards against” impacts on our environment, “drinking water watersheds, freshwater aquifers and other sensitive habitats; impacts caused by drilling and production wastes; impacts on land use; socioeconomic impacts; impacts on cultural resources and impacts on endangered species and species of concern." Yet, “a total of 270 oil and gas spills is posted at These uncontrolled releases caused fires, explosions, massive pollution releases, contaminated drinking water sources, home evacuations, tainted farmland and widespread threats to wetlands, streams, ponds, aquifers and other "sensitive receptors." Many of these DEC-reported problems have exceeded clean up standards for decades. DEC's own data document systematic, on-going failures to prevent oil and gas drilling pollution impacts or to clean them up. It is imperative that DEC resolve those regulatory shortcomings prior to issuing new drilling permits. 

NYC DEP’s Final Impact Assessment: Superb Summary of Gas Drilling Impacts (12/23/09)
This comprehensive report by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection is an updated version of the Rapid Impact Assessment released in September 2009, but the information it contains is quite different from the previous version. Another must-read, it describes in detail the geology of the NYC watershed, including the numerous underground faults throughout the state, the rates and densities of well development expected, and the cumulative impacts—including sections on land disturbance, truck traffic, water and chemical use, spills, subsurface migration of fracturing fluids or produced brine, and wastewater disposal.

More in-depth review of the SGEIS regulations.

All Hat and No Cattle: An Assessment of the SGEIS by Steve Coffman

Cornell Law School’s Assessment of SGEIS: DEC Lays out 187 New Jobs for Itself in Ch. 7 Alone
The Cornell Law School’s Water Law Clinic took on Chapter 7 of the draft SGEIS as a pro-bono class project, and found that the DEC mentions 187 new tasks that it would have to carry out to regulate gas drilling in that one chapter alone. They conclude that the DEC is greatly understaffed and will be unable to carry out these important tasks, many of which involve monitoring and inspecting new wells to be sure they are not harming the environment and people’s health.  To see the report, click here.

Editorial: DEC’s Inadequacy to Regulate Gas Drilling, and Why the EPA Should Step In  
Go to “Past Issues,” choose October 19, 2009, and go to page 8 for this half-page, and beautifully written editorial by Tina Wright. It succinctly brings up many inadequacies of the draft SGEIS.

Talking Points Memo (TPM) Blog on 10/2/09, including excerpts from the SGEIS

Ithaca Journal (10/10/09): Gas Drilling Monitoring Tasks being Passed to Communities
Article discussing how the SGEIS passes some responsibilities for monitoring the effects of natural gas drilling in the area onto local communities. “The state is calling on local health departments to... take on a "primary role" in overseeing a program to review water data at private wells within 1,000 to 2,000 feet of a drilling rig, before, during and up to a year after operations. County officials are still trying to determine how that translates into staffing needs. The Marcellus is capable of supporting between 2,000 and 4,000 gas wells in Broome County, based on an economic development report commissioned by the legislature. Each gas well has the potential for producing water testing at multiple spots for years. As a preliminary step, the county added $28,000 to the Health Department's budget for 2010 to pay for an additional part-time position to respond to complaints involving drilling's effect on private water supplies.”

Breathing is Political: 10/29/09 DEC Hearing in Sullivan Co. and Comments Made

Chesapeake Says it Won’t Drill in NYC’s Watershed: What Does that Mean for Upstate NY?
Catskill Mountainkeeper’s 10-30-09 News Bulletin thoughtfully discusses Chesapeake’s announcement on 10-28-09, the morning of the first public hearing on the SGEIS (located very close to NYC’s watershed), that it will not pursue drilling in NYC’s watershed. Also includes an article on the first public hearing, including some comments made by the public, and a petition to request an extension to the public comment period for the SGEIS.

NY Times Article (9/30/09) on Release of Draft SGEIS by DEC
Article focuses mostly on concerns about NYC watershed, but does give some general background. Says “The prospect of gas drilling in upstate New York has stirred strong opposition from a coalition of environmental groups, city politicians and residents, who fear that expansive operations of this sort could contaminate the city’s drinking water. But it has gained firm supporters upstate who say the economic benefits of a new gas boom far outweigh any potential risks, especially given the weakness of the economy.”  In reality, there are many upstate residents very concerned about the environmental effects of gas drilling. Responses to the NY Times are needed to set this misconception straight.

This 90-page, thorough report by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection summarizes the issue very well, and is a must-read for everyone, especially before commenting on the SGEIS. It describes in detail the geology and hydrology of the NYC watershed in the Catskills and the gas-drilling process and potential impacts to water resources (they acknowledge other types of impacts, but water is the focus). The report includes a lengthy discussion of gas extraction operations around the country, and the incidents and impacts associated with each—the best collection of this type of information available, without searching different sites. Very nice diagrams and photos are included.

New York City Department of Environmental Protection Comment on SGEIS
This short message explains DEP’s concern about gas drilling harming NYC’s watershed. The presentation  (second link at end of message) summarizes specific potential gas-drilling impacts to the watershed, and has some good photos of drilling.

Short article saying that DEC does not know when paper copies of the SGEIS will be available, nor have they decided whether to hold public hearings or extend the comment period.

     Town Resolutions to Withdraw the Draft SGEIS

  Town of Ithaca (12/7/09)

  Town of Enfield (12/9/09)

  Town of Danby (12/14/09)

Town of Danby Planning Board (12/19/09)

  Town of Ulysses (Includes Comments on Draft SGEIS, 12/7/09)

Municipal Resolutions About the Draft SGEIS

Tompkins County Board of Health (12/21/09)

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