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Executive Order's Erroneous Assertion Regarding Conventional Gas Well Fracking

Peter M. Iwanowicz
Acting Commissioner
Department of Environmental Conservation
Deputy Secretary for the Environment
Office of Governor David A. Paterson
State Capitol, Room 245
Albany, NY 12224


You recently asked me whether the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had responded to my 4/2/09 letter regarding disclosure of extensive natural gas incident data I obtained from the Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany County Health Departments. Those counties are where the majority of active vertical gas wells have been drilled in New York. I wrote you that I have yet to receive a reply.

Based on those incidents and many other government-documented environmental and public health hazards associated with natural gas activities, I write to refute the assertion in Governor Paterson's Executive Order #41 that:

"low-volume hydraulic fracturing, or conventional fracking, has been used successfully and safely in New York State for many years to extract natural gas consistent with the Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program promulgated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (Department) in 1992,"

The gas industry reported that vertical gas wells in New York have been routinely fracked for decades. That is why I believe it is beyond dispute that Executive Order #41 is in error regarding this matter.

  1. On November 9, 2009, I released detailed DEC spill information that identified more than 270 incidents involving drilling rig fires, explosions, homes evacuated due to gas drilling hazards, polluted water supply wells, gas drilling wastewater spills and various other oil/gas releases that had never been cleaned up. Many of those problems have exceeded remediation requirements for many years.


  2. I later learned that many natural gas problems are not required to be reported to the DEC spills program pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding with the three above-referenced County Health Departments. As a result, I compiled extensive additional data regarding widespread natural gas impacts. Dozens of these problems were reported prior to the adoption of the GEIS in 1992 and have never been cleaned up.


  3. I also released documents regarding a gas development firm that reportedly impacted a residential home in Andover, NY and offered to compensate the homeowner. That information can be viewed at:

    You can view my video interview of Mr. Dave Eddy, the impacted homeowner. Given the analytical data documenting contamination of his drinking water and the information he received regarding when his well was hydrofracked, I believe this incident refutes DEC's assertion that: "No known instances of groundwater contamination have occurred from previous horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing projects in New York State."


    I request DEC to investigate this matter and to resolve Mr. Eddy's problem without further delay.

  4. I request DEC to include the gas incidents reported by local health authorities in its statewide spills database and determine whether they require further investigation and remediation. If appropriate, I request DEC to correct the record with regard to the above-referenced statement.

    I also write to bring other major concerns to your attention regarding DEC's ineffective clean up of natural gas and oil drilling hazards.

  5. Commissioner Grannis' 12/30/09 letter to Assemblyman Parment confirmed the pollution impact of the Dale Fox drilling incident (spill # 9610441, PDF page one) in Freedom, NY. See:

    That spill reportedly "meets clean up standards" according to DEC's spills database even though no subsurface investigation or remediation was undertaken. I spoke to Paul Lewis, the homeowner who originally called in the spill. He told me he still cannot drink water drawn from his well.

    You can view documents associated with the litigation against Dale Fox that compensated the families whose wells and homes were impacted. See:

    I request DEC to investigate this matter and correct the "meets clean up standards" regulatory status if appropriate.

  6. There are numerous additional spill incidents that reportedly meet "clean up standards" even though no remediation was undertaken. For example, spill # 0275256 (PDF page 118) reportedly meets clean up standards even though oil reportedly leaked for decades, flowed into a nearby river and was not cleaned up.

    I request DEC to investigate the accuracy of the regulatory status information in its spills database with regard to natural gas and oil spills. Please require corrections to be made if appropriate.

  7. Dozens of natural gas and oil spills reportedly do not meet applicable clean up standards many years after occurring. I request DEC to investigate why these spills have never been remediated in compliance with applicable regulatory requirements and require them to be cleaned up without further delay.
  8. I identified a homeowner in Candor, NY named Frederick Mayer who reported in 1/09 that natural gas activities near his home might have caused his well water to become ignitable (spill # 0811696, PDF page 148).

    You can view my video interview of Mr. Mayer at:

    Frederick Mayer is a decorated Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam, was wounded in battle and is now disabled. He has never been visited by a DEC investigator regarding his complaint. His drinking water remains ignitable nearly two years after he first contacted DEC.

    I request DEC to investigate this matter and resolve Mr. Mayer's drinking water problem without further delay.

  9. Conclusion

    Thank you for considering my multiple requests for DEC action. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions I might be able to answer. I am willing to meet with you and your colleagues to discuss my concerns.

    Best wishes for a Happy Holidays and for all your future endeavors. I look forward to speaking with you again.