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Withdraw Revised Draft SGEIS in Order to Eliminate Unplugged and Abandoned Gas and Oil Well Hazards

Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
The Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo:

I write to reiterate a coalition letter request that you immediately withdraw your Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) in order to restart the permit guideline proceeding by allowing public comment on how best to resolve its numerous unacceptable shortcomings.

Withdraw Revised Draft SGEIS Coalition Letter With 22,000+ Signatories

Nearly a year ago, you received the Withdraw the Revised Draft SGEIS coalition letter that documented a total of 17 key concerns. The letter now has more than 22,000 signatories, including elected officials, physicians, academic researchers, environmental and civic groups as well as thousands of concerned citizens. To date, that request has not received a favorable reply.


Map of Previously Unpublicized Unplugged and Abandoned Gas, Oil and Other Wells

This request makes more sense than ever because DEC’s Revised Draft SGEIS fails to provide a meaningful plan to safeguard public health and the environment from a major contamination hazard that has just come to light: at least 5,046 unplugged and abandoned gas, oil and other wells reported in a total of 38 New York counties.

I recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Law a DEC database of those previously unpublicized unplugged and abandoned wells as well as their latitude/longitude coordinates. Their reported locations are illustrated below:

An interactive map at: illustrates unplugged and abandoned wells near residential homes, above drinking water supply aquifers, in wetlands, near geological faults and adjoining critically important waterbodies, including Southern Cayuga Lake in the vicinity of the Bolton Point intake that supplies drinking water to approximately 30,000 residents. These unplugged and abandoned wells warrant your urgent and immediate attention.

Unplugged and Abandoned Gas, Oil and Other Wells Pose Well-Documented Hazards

According to DEC’s Division of Mineral Resources’ 2008 Annual Report (page 22):

“Abandoned wells can leak oil, gas and/or brine; underground leaks may go undiscovered for years. These fluids can contaminate ground and surface water, kill vegetation, and cause public safety and health problems.

Historically, abandoned wells have been discovered in the woods, along roadsides, and in residential yards, playgrounds, and parking lots. They’ve even been discovered inside buildings, and underwater in wetlands, streams and ponds.”

Urgent Action Requested to Eliminate Unplugged and Abandoned Well Hazards

Given the hazards posed by unplugged and abandoned wells, I request that you require your DEC to:

1) alert property owners within one mile of any reported unplugged and abandoned well;

2) alert drinking water suppliers and municipalities that could be liable for cleaning up leaking well problems of unplugged and abandoned wells within their jurisdictions;

3) investigate every unplugged and abandoned well and remediate all hazards to public health and the environment in strict compliance with applicable clean up requirements within five years.

DEC’s False Assertion That Mineral Extraction Regulatory Problems “haven’t happened” in NYS

DEC has long asserted that: "As a result of New York's rigorous regulatory process, the types of problems reported to have occurred in states without such strong environmental laws and rigorous regulations haven't happened here.” That claim is DEC’s rationale for undertaking the limited SGEIS permit guideline proceeding that has prevented Marcellus Shale gas fracking in New York since 2008.

DEC’s assertion is directly contradicted by its own Division of Mineral Resources Annual Reports and other extensive government documents which reveal a wide array of environmental contamination problems associated with unplugged abandoned gas, oil and other wells as well as a host of other regulatory shortcomings.


New Gas and Oil Extraction GEIS Needed

Given New York’s well-documented gas and oil extraction regulatory shortcomings, it is clear that the rationale for only undertaking a limited scope Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement is insupportable. Clearly a entirely new GEIS is needed to address all existing regulatory problems.

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency wrote to DEC about this concern: “EPA is concerned that over the past 17 years since the 1992 GElS was written, the ‘existing’ environment and conditions in New York State have changed sufficiently that using the information from that report as a baseline for the d [draft, not in original] SGEIS will not take into account the cumulative impacts from habitat fragmentation, population increase, and climate change that may have occurred during that time.”

Maintain Shale Gas Fracturing Moratorium Pending Elimination of Unplugged and Abandoned Well Hazards and Final Adoption of Comprehensive Public Health and Environmental Safeguards

Marcellus Shale gas fracking could exacerbate existing mineral extraction hazards and must remain banned in New York until our state’s unplugged and abandoned well problems have been fully resolved and comprehensive public health and environmental safeguards are adopted.

I believe that it would be irresponsible to permit fracking in New York, even on a limited basis, until those goals are achieved. Moreover, I believe that the on-going failure to resolve DEC’s shale gas regulatory shortcomings is a disservice to the agency.

I trust that you will contact me if you have any questions that I might be able to answer.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best regards,

Walter Hang

Cc: 	Honorable Judith A. Enck
	Honorable Barbara S. Lifton
	Honorable Matthew T. Ryan 
        Members of the Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel
	Signatories of the Withdraw the Revised Draft SGEIS coalition letter
	Town Supervisors with unplugged and abandoned gas/oil/other wells in their jurisdictions