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Marcellus Shale Update/Please redouble your efforts


I trust you have all been very well since my last communication. We have been on quite a roll recently. I thought I would take a moment to bring you up to date and implore you to redouble your efforts.

The NYT Marcellus Shale Series

It is hard for me to believe that Ian Urbina's epic Marcellus Shale series ran in The New York Times only slightly more than two months ago. It seems like an eternity has passed since then.

He uncovered immensely important information about hydrofracking wastewater hazards. Pennsylvania environmental authorities soon halted natural gas drilling wastewater discharges to Publicly Owned Treatment Works. Efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to safeguard public health were repeatedly called into question. As a result, landmark federal regulations are in the offing. Governor Cuomo and DEC came under intense pressure to resolve the DRAFT SGEIS's shortcomings. That has added serious punch to our organizing. Wow. Thank you, Ian.

Follow-up Efforts

We took full advantage of his coverage in the newspaper of record. Hundreds of activists descended on the Capitol and made more NO FRACKING WAY noise than the War Room has ever heard. The Governor's office was only about 100 feet away. We met with DEC Commissioner Joe Martens on one day's notice and brought unrelenting pressure to bear on DEC to expand the scope of the SGEIS. As a result, the Commissioner publicly acknowledged that the SGEIS process might have to start over. He also said horizontal hydrofracturing might not be allowed in New York's Marcellus Shale.

In short, we mobilized our powerful coalition of legislators, local elected officials, civic and environmental groups, students and citizens to extend New York's de facto moratorium. Impressive press coverage resulted, including coverage as far away as Japan. We have been pouring it on ever since.

What is the effect of all this work? Check out a wonderfully revealing 5/10/11 Capitol Pressroom interview with John Holko, a key natural gas industry representative. Mr. Holko references the SGEIS more than a dozen times and makes admissions that speak volumes.

Susan Arbetter: "Do you think you have been getting a fair shake in PA?

Holko: "I think we have been getting a lot of exposure in PA. I don't...I don't... I don't ... you know, I don't know what fair is. I don't... I... I mean it's ... it's difficult to define. I've spent a lot of time in New York. And...and I can tell you in New York - for our industry - it's devastating."

Arbetter: "Is it you think it's not fair in New York?"

Holko: "Absolutely not."

Arbetter: "It is not fair?"

Holko: "No, no. Where we're at in New York has really damaged our industry."

You can listen to the entire interview at:

The natural gas industry's coverage woes continue in an article about pro-drilling advocates visiting Albany last week:

After groups opposing hydraulic fracturing swarmed Albany three times in the past two months (emphasis added), the natural gas industry got its day at the Capitol on Wednesday.

About 50 members of industry and other pro-gas groups met with lawmakers on the Legislature's environmental conservation committees, urging them to stand back and let the state Department of Environmental Conservation complete its review of permitting guidelines for hydrofracking, the technique in which chemical-laced water is injected deep into tight shale formations to release gas.


Redouble Your Efforts!

Against that background, I implore each and every one of you to redouble your efforts. Governor Cuomo has yet to provide a favorable reply to our request that he provide an immediate public comment period to identify all the issues that DEC must address in its revised DRAFT SGEIS. We need to make a quantum jump to the next level of political pressure.

Be a force-multiplier. It is not enough to sign the Cuomo coalition letter. You should try to get 100 signatories. It is not enough to call the Governor. You should try to organize a phone banking operation. More is better. Use the contact info below.

Executive Order No. 41

When Executive Order No. 41 was miraculously signed by Governor Paterson last December, it further delayed horizontal hydrofracturing in New York's Marcellus Shale. DEC is now working to revise the draft SGEIS in order to "analyze comprehensively the environmental impacts associated with high-volume hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling." The agency is hoping to provide a revised draft by the end of the summer.

My goal since the autumn of 2009 has been to make sure that all the shortcomings of the original draft SGEIS are addressed on a comprehensive basis. In order to achieve that requirement, the scope of the SGEIS must be expanded to include all of the latest scientific, technical and regulatory concerns that have come to light since the proceeding began more than three years ago.

The excruciatingly detailed coalition letter requesting that Governor Cuomo require immediate public comment and expand the scope of the SGEIS now has nearly 5,000 signatories. Thank you so much for your support.

NYPIRG recently delivered 10,000 petition signatures to the Governor echoing that request. Their work generated intense press coverage. Way to go Brendan Woodruff, Hydrofracking Campaign Organizer, Cathleen Breen, NYC Watershed Protection Program Coordinator, and all their colleagues at New York's largest public interest research and advocacy group. If a NYPIRG canvasser knocks on your door this summer, please support their efforts.

Legislative Letter Requesting That Governor Cuomo Expand the Scope of the SGEIS

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton's letter requesting that Governor Cuomo provide an immediate public comment period about expanding the scope of the SGEIS now has 62 legislator signatories, including Democrats and Republicans in the Assembly and State Senate!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you. That is a stupendous achievement.


Use this request letter:

Representative Lifton's self-explanatory letter is posted at:

Auburn, NY Gas Drilling Wastewater Campaign

Citizens are working hard to halt gas drilling wastewater discharged into the Auburn wastewater treatment plant. That facility accepted approximately 16 million gallons of gas drilling wastewater last year. It is likely the sole municipal treatment plant still accepting gas drilling wastewater in New York State. Please contact Terry and Beth Cuddy if you wish to support their grassroots efforts:


In conclusion, Governor Cuomo remains our target. I implore you to stay focused. The bottom line is that there will be no horizontal hydrofracking in New York's Marcellus and other tight shales until a Final SGEIS is adopted. With your intensified efforts, that document might not be adopted for many years to come.

If an inadequately revised draft SGEIS is released, New York State would still be one step closer to allowing horizontal hydrofracturing in Marcellus Shale. That is why Governor Cuomo must be persuaded to expand the scope of the SGEIS right now.

As you know, some activists are trying to enact local hydrofracturing bans and ordinances to restrict "high-impact industrial uses" in areas that do not even have zoning. Those efforts are unlikely to survive legal challenges. Others are trying to enact state and federal legislation that has virtually no chance of passing with a divided Congress and Legislature. Still others are working to transform our nation's energy systems, a task that will surely require decades.

In the short run, I believe it is imperative to focus on the strategy that has totally prevented Marcellus Shale horizontal hydrofracturing in New York. All shoulders to the wheel now and we might prevail.

Finally, thanks to all of you who have sent me so many generous comments and made unstinting efforts in the public interest. We are collectively making good progress. Keep slugging.

Onward and upward,