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CB #1 – MANHATTAN: Hydraulic Fracturing in the New York City Watershed

DATE: APRIL 27, 2010
BOARD VOTE:                         33    In Favor    0  Opposed      0  Abstained      0    Recused
RE:                      Hydraulic Fracturing in the New York City Watershed
WHEREAS:   The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced this past Friday (4/23/20) that due to the unique issues related to the protection of New York City drinking water supply, the watersheds will be excluded from the pending Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) “review process for natural gas drilling using high-volume horizontal drilling in the Marcellus shale formation. Instead, applications to drill in these watersheds will require a case-by-case environmental review process to establish whether appropriate measures to mitigate potential impacts can be developed.” (; and
WHEREAS:           NYC uses unfiltered drinking water from surface-water sources, and its watershed is subject to Filtration Avoidance Determinations (FADs) because NYC was able to demonstrate that it complied with an array of strict water quality criteria and it effectively implements a comprehensive watershed management plan; and
WHEREAS:           NYC DEC specifically determined that existing New York State gas drilling regulations may be insufficient to safeguard New York City’s watershed from high-volume horizontal hydrofracturing and required an SGEIS regulatory proceeding to address that concern; and
WHEREAS:           The hydraulic fracturing consists of blasting water mixed with chemicals into Marcellus shale at a high pressure to extract natural gas.  This back slurry is 5-10 times more salty than ocean water, contains a wide range of toxic chemicals (many of which are not even disclosed) and naturally occurring radioactive contaminants.  In addition, a 300 foot set-back from NYC’s water is inadequate; and
WHEREAS:           NYS DEC fails to specify how gas drilling in the watershed could be done safely since it does not address the disposal of waste water from the drilling and the danger of leaks and spills into groundwater and deep aquifers and surface waters; and

WHEREAS:           NYS DEC does not propose to ban horizontal hydrofracking in NYC’s watershed; and
WHEREAS:           CB1 is concerned that as a result of NYC DEC’s 04/23/10 decision, NYC’s water supply would not be protected by the inherent dangers of hydraulic fracturing by DEC’s requirement for applicants for natural gas drilling permits using high-volume horizontal drilling to do an individual Environmental Impact Statement;  and
WHEREAS:           According to The New York Times (04/24/10), the DEC stated that they expect to release their final SGEIS on hydraulic fracturing by the end of this year; now
WHEREAS:           The Catskill watershed supplies drinking water to 8.2 million people in New York City and about a million in Westchester; and
WHEREAS:           NYS DEC’s own draft SGEIS (9/30/2009) states: “The1992 findings were the culmination of a 12-year effort which included extensive public scoping and research by Department staff, followed by public comment and hearings on the Draft GEIS.  Major issues identified through the previous scoping process and addressed in the GEIS.  Major issues identified through the previous scoping process and addressed in the GEIS, as listed on page 3 of the draft GEIS, were: impacts on water quality; impacts of drilling in sensitive areas, … 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.”, and
WHEREAS:           NYS DEC’s own draft SGEIS (1.4.2, 9/30/2009) states: “In 2008, the Department determined that some aspects of the current and anticipated application of horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing warrant further review in the context of a Supplemental Generic Environment Impact Statement.  This determination was based primarily upon three key factors:  (1) required water volumes in excess of GEIS descriptions, (2) possible drilling in the New York City Watershed …and (3) longer duration of disturbance at multi-well drilling sites.  These factors and other potential impacts were listed in a publicly vetted Scope for the SGEIS,” now
THAT:                    CB1 strongly urges Commissioner Grannis, Governor Paterson and Region 2 Administrator Enck to immediately withdraw the draft SGEIS and thoroughly address its inadequacies and develop a comprehensive plan to protect NYC’s water reservoirs from high-volume horizontal hydrofracturing.