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Congratulations on winning the biggest environmental victory in a generation


The truth is that I feared this momentous day might never come, but at long last it finally arrived.

After nearly seven years of grueling, seemingly endless hard work, I am thrilled to report that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation finally issued its long-awaited Findings Statement to conclude the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) proceeding.

Pursuant to our respectful and well documented requests, the No-Action alternative was adopted which prohibits shale fracking everywhere in New York.

This is an absolutely amazing red letter day in the annals of the American environmental movement. Congratulations on winning the biggest environmental victory in a generation. Wow.

The Findings Statement is an incredible document because it achieves almost everything we requested and will be extraordinarily hard to overturn. It also represents a 180-degree reversal of DEC's original assertion that shale fracking could be done safely because, "No known instances of groundwater contamination have occurred from previous horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing projects in New York State.”

On November 13, 2009, our first coalition letter challenged that linchpin assurance by documenting a total of 270 gas and oil extraction hazards using DEC's own data. That was the beginning of the end.

In the ensuing years, our groundbreaking research, coalition letters, relentless grassroots campaigning and media outreach ultimately forced DEC to acknowledge a wide array of gas extraction hazards associated with toxic wastewater spills, inadequate regulation of conventional gas extraction activities, insufficient statewide treatment capacity of extraction wastewater and the failure to identify and plug thousands of abandoned gas/oil production wells.

That outcome helped lead to today's landmark decision to prohibit shale fracking across New York. In the most delicious of ironies, DEC likely affirmed all of our key concerns plain as day in its Findings Statement because those arguments will be instrumental to defending the agency's historic shale fracking prohibition decision if it is challenged in court.

You probably do not recall that our first coalition letter stated:

"With all due respect, the d[raft]SGEIS is a largely theoretical proposal that fails to deal with the harsh realities of DEC's long-standing oil and gas regulatory shortcomings. New York needs the effective means to prevent and clean up oil and gas drilling hazards. Unless and until DEC accomplishes that goal by addressing the drilling concerns outlined herein and voiced by concerned citizens, elected officials and environmental, conservation and community groups, the moratorium on high-volume, "slickwater" horizontal drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation must be maintained.

We trust you will find our request self-explanatory. Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your prompt reply."

Better late than never, eh? We never heard back till today, but we finally got exactly what we asked for.

Thank you so much for all of your generous and steadfast assistance as well as your kind words. We have collectively achieved far more than we ever could have hoped for. If only everything could turn out so well.

New York has been totally safeguarded from shale fracking (at least for now). I am most pleased that we did not abandon any beleaguered communities to their own devices. We fully achieved our goal of equal protection for all New Yorkers from shale fracking.

Read more below about the intricate details of our stupendous win. This epic victory now represents a highly effective model of hard-hitting environmental action that could be replicated wherever shale fracking is underway or proposed.

It has been a privilege to be able to work with you, also immense fun. Winning is better than losing.

More to come shortly.

Onward and upward.



What the SGEIS Findings Statement Concluded

"Based on unavoidable adverse environmental impacts and uncertainty regarding the science surrounding high-volume hydraulic fracturing and its potential impacts to public health and the environment, the Department finds that the best course of action is to select the No Action alternative. Selection of the No Action alternative means that the Department will not establish a high-volume hydraulic fracturing permitting program; that no individual or site-specific permit applications for wells using high-volume hydraulic fracturing will be processed; and that high-volume hydraulic fracturing will be prohibited (emphasis added) in New York State."


"The Department adopts the NYSDOH [New York State Department of Health] statement in the Public Health Review that “[w]hile a guarantee of absolute safety is not possible, an assessment of the risk to public health must be supported by adequate scientific information to determine with confidence that the overall risk is sufficiently low to justify proceeding with HVHF in New York. The current scientific information is insufficient. Furthermore, it is clear from existing literature and experience that HVHF activity has resulted in environmental impacts that are potentially adverse to public health.”

"Until completion of ongoing studies by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and others regarding public health impacts from high-volume hydraulic fracturing, the Department will adhere to the NYSDOH recommendation in its public health review that “until the science provides sufficient information to determine the level of risk to public health from HVHF to all New Yorkers and whether the risks can be adequately managed... HVHF should not proceed in New York State (emphasis added)."

The Beginning of Our Successful Campaign: The Infamous Dale Fox Drilling Disaster Revisited

"there was a reported incident in 1996, in the Town of Freedom, during the drilling of a conventional oil and gas well. There, an underground blowout of natural gas occurred when the well bore became pressurized by a strong gas flow. This underground blowout caused methane migration that affected properties approximately one and a half miles away. In addition, methane detected in the shallow subsurface after the event, including in residential water wells and a pond, resulted in the evacuation of 12 families from their homes."

Toxic Extraction Wastewater Spills Acknowledged

"The Department concludes that spills or releases in connection with high-volume hydraulic fracturing could have significant adverse impacts on water resources.

"Spills or releases of these contaminants can occur as a result of tank ruptures, equipment or surface impoundment failures, overfills, vandalism, accidents (including vehicle collisions), ground fires, improper operations and other incidents. Spilled, leaked or released fluids could flow overland to a surface water body or infiltrate the ground, reaching subsurface soils, aquifers, and drinking water sources. These types of environmental impacts could lead to significant and adverse public health outcomes."

Abandoned and Unplugged Well Problems Affirmed

"While there is little likelihood of vertical migration of hydraulic fracturing fluids based on the nature of the activity and geological characteristics of the formation being targeted, uncertainty remains as to migration risks from wellbore failures or connectivity to nearby abandoned wells or faults. The location and depth of abandoned wells and existing faults in the Marcellus Shale region is not fully catalogued or understood. Therefore, it will be difficult in some cases to ensure that all abandoned wells and existing faults have been identified, and a failure to understand these geologic conditions prior to high-volume hydraulic fracturing activities has the potential to cause significant adverse environmental and health impacts."

Fracking Wastewater Disposal: The Achilles Heel of Shale Fracking Confirmed

"The disposal of flowback water and production brine could cause a significant adverse impact if the wastewater is not properly stored and treated prior to disposal. Residual fracturing chemicals and/or naturally-occurring constituents from the rock formation could be present in production brine and could result in treatment, sludge disposal, and receiving-water impacts. Salts and dissolved solids may not be sufficiently treated by municipal biological treatment and/or other treatment technologies which are not designed to remove pollutants of this nature."

"Waste disposal, as a general matter, also presents risks because of the uncertainty as to how and where high-volume hydraulic fracturing-generated-waste could be properly disposed. Overall, the absence of existing facilities with recognized capacity to accept large volumes of wastewater raises the potential of significant impacts, including improper or illegal disposal. Specifically, there are no publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) permitted to accepted high-volume hydraulic fracturing wastewater in New York State, and the Department has yet to receive any requests from any POTW in the State to accept this source of wastewater."

DEC's Shale Fracking Impact Mitigation Strategy Deemed Inadequate and Unacceptable

The Department concludes that while the mitigation measures in some instances would likely be effective in reducing the risk of impacts, in other instances impacts would only be partially mitigated, and in some instances the Department recognizes that there is insufficient information, or too much uncertainty as to the effectiveness of the mitigation, to determine if the impacts could be adequately mitigated at all."


Through sophisticated, knowledgeable and effective advocacy and organizing efforts, we were fortunately able to prevail. Give yourself a nice pat on the back for a job very well done.

Please call Governor Cuomo at 518 474 8390 to thank him for his courageous and eminently wise decision to prohibit shale fracking in New York State.

You will hear a recording. Press 2 to leave a message or press 3 to speak with a live person. Either option is fine.

I am sure your heartfelt comments will be gracious beyond description and that the Governor will much appreciate your kind words. A hand-written note is even better.

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