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Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation

2013 East Genesee St. 3 Syracuse, NY 13210 3 (315) 472-5478 3 January 11, 2012 State of New York Department of Environmental Conservation Attn: dSGEIS Comments Bureau of Oil and Gas Regulation, Division of Mineral Resources 625 Broadway, Third Floor Albany, NY 12233-6500 To whom it may concern: The Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON) respectfully submit our comments on the 2011 revised draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (rdSGEIS) and request a response from NYS DEC to those comments addressing identified sections of the document. NOON is a grassroots educational and advocacy project of the Syracuse Peace Council. NOON calls on the Governor of New York and the NYS DEC to ban unconventional drilling for natural gas that includes high volume, slick water hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. We take this position after hearing from our friends at the Onondaga Nation that their concerns on this issue went unheeded by the NYS DEC. The Onondaga and the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force have considered the effects of this practice on the Seventh Generation yet to come, and have subsequently called for a ban of unconventional drilling in their aboriginal territory. (Enclosure #1) NOON finds this rationale far more sound than the short-sighted political reasoning of our own leaders and thereby supports a ban on unconventional drilling throughout New York State. We who live in the watershed of Onondaga Lake are most keenly aware of the impacts of industrial initiatives that focus on profit and economic benefit to the extreme detriment of the environment and our natural treasures. We feel that allowing high volume, slickwater hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling (HVHFHD) will create a burden for future generations on a magnitude exceeding what we are dealing with in the restoration of Onondaga Lake. NOON asks that, in the absence of a ban on unconventional drilling, the DEC and the Governor enact an indefinite moratorium until such time as

the recently initiated United States Environmental Protection Agency study on impacts of unconventional drilling on drinking water is complete. If that study results in definitive findings, then New York should consider future actions based on those results. Once again, we would urge a ban on unconventional drilling in any case. Regarding the rdSGEIS, NOON believes it fails to establish adequate specific conditions, criteria, and thresholds to allow drilling permits to be issued in a manner that will protect the lands, waters, and lives of all who live in NY. It will take only one misstep, whether accidental or intentional, to cause disastrous impacts on the quality of life of New York citizens. Without extensive additional environmental review, NOON advocates for, at the least, a withdrawal of the document. Here are substantive comments on the dSGEIS: A. Watershed Protection (Section 7.1.5) While we applaud the DECs stance that watersheds with a filtration avoidance declaration (FAD) should be spared HVHFHD, we also submit that no one watershed should be considered more vulnerable than another. If the HVHFHD process poses too many risks for two watersheds, might it not be considered too risky for any watershed? Therefore, we ask that all sole source aquifers and unprotected water supplies be given the same watershed plus 4000 feet exclusion that has been enacted for Syracuse and New York City. Private Wells and Springs (Section 2.4.5) For many people in rural parts of the state, wells and springs are the standard source of water. Understanding that some springs are not groundwater but influenced by surface water, drilling activities shall not commence within the possible surface watershed of the spring. Modern GIS software makes determination of such areas fairly simple. In particular, we are aware that the Onondaga Nations water supply may be adversely affected by hydrofracking in the watershed above them. As neighbors and in the spirit of the Two Row Wampum, we ask New York State to ban hydrofracking upstream of the Onondaga Nation within the Onondaga Creek and West Branch of the Onondaga Creek watersheds, which fall in the Towns of Onondaga, Tully, LaFayette, and Otisco. Regulation of Chemicals (Section 5.3 and 5.4) It is not enough to know what toxic chemicals we may discover contaminating our drinking water and lands in the future. The DEC must take action to protect our futures by banning the use of the most toxic chemicals from the hydrofracking process. History of Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing in Water Supply Areas (Section 2.4.6) All chemicals to be used on a wellsite should be made available to the public on a well by well basis. All public and private water supply sources within a mile of a well bore




should be tested for those chemicals in advance of the start of drilling to offer a baseline. Further tests should be conducted annually while the well is active and for two years after drilling stops and the well is capped. These tests should be administered by the DEC Division of Water, with specialized staff headquartered in each regional office, and not the County Health Departments as written in the dSGEIS as they lack regulatory control over gas drillers. Funding for such testing and monitoring operations should be levied from the drilling companies as part of the permitting process. It has been widely documented that there are incidents of drinking water contamination even in the files of the NYS DEC as per the research of Walter Hang and others (see However, the rdSGEIS still seems to avoid those records in Section 2.4.6 by stating: No documented instances of groundwater contamination from previous horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing projects in New York are recorded in the Departments well files or records of complaint investigations. No documented incidents of groundwater contamination in public water supply systems could be recalled by the NYSDOH central office and Rochester district office (NYSDOH, 2009a; NYSDOH, 2009b). If the NYS DEC is to become a trusted protector of our air and water during a gas drilling onslaught to our environment, it would seem appropriate to address information in their own files in some way other than none could be recalled. Are they there or arent they? E. Cumulative Impact (Section - The dSGEIS states each application to drill a well will continue to be considered an individual project. This is unacceptable; the cumulative impact of additional wells in a given community must be taken into consideration for each subsequent well, and state-wide. There needs to be a cumulative impact analysis to understand the full impact this form of drilling could have on the water, air, land, animals, local roads, infrastructure, habitat, and other ecological systems upon which we all depend. NOON appreciates that the SEQRA process has been inserted to well permitting, however, the issue of cumulative impacts is dealt with less than 20 times (16 times by document search) in a 1500+ page document. With the industry projecting the drilling of thousands of wells, cumulative impacts apply to every facet of human and animal life in New York State. Local government planning for future cumulative impact (Section 6.12) Local governments currently lack capacity for understanding the extent of possible gas drilling development and the rdSGEIS is not much help considering the information is totally pro-drilling using the Independent Oil and Gas Association (IOGA) and a strictly benefit oriented socio-economic study. In the absence of balanced research and findings, it is unlikely that


local governments can realistically develop planning for HVHFHD. This is particularly true based on incident after incident coming out of other states where drilling is already underway. A process of recording gas leases needs to be streamlined and funded so that county governments are able to easily provide answers to local government queries regarding the extent of gas leases. This should be developed in full collaboration with local planning agencies to ensure proper planning for the future. Counties with GIS capabilities should include such maps in their publicly-accessible data; counties without GIS capabilities should receive assistance from a DEC program collecting and disseminating this information on a statewide basis. G. Mitigating Road Use Impacts (Section 7.11) This paragraph should REQUIRE that operators provide road use contracts, bonding for damage compensation, and contact with local jurisdictions PRIOR to initiating permit application rather than just submitting road use plans with their permit applications. NYS DEC and the NYS Attorney-Generals Office should provide expertise to any jurisdiction where natural gas drilling is proposed at the beginning of the permit application process. Improvements to the 2009 dSGEIS in the 2011 version are well intentioned but need to go even further. Flowback water Handling at the Wellsite (Section 5.11.2) All flowback that is stored in closed steel tanks should be monitored, inspected, and removed in timely fashion that is specified (not just recommended) with significant enforcement penalties resulting from non-compliance. Waste Transport (Section 6.1.7) Recent news stories indicate damage and fish kills caused by illegal dumping in other states. Given the cost of transportation and treatment and the difficulty in finding facilities capable of removing fracking chemicals, radioactive materials, and heavy metals from the flowback, the lack of manifesting would seem to provide an incentive to cheat. If hydrofracking is allowed in NY, all contaminated water leaving a hydrofracking site shall be documented with a manifest to ensure that it does not simply disappear if treatment facilities reject it. It will be treated as a hazardous waste to ensure the public trust in its appropriate and legal disposition. Treatment Facilities (Section The 2011 rdSGEIS contains significantly more detail on disposal of frack water, however, no amount of detail can change the fact that treatment options are inadequate to deal with the magnitude of fluid that will be produced. Next to well casing integrity, the disposal of frack water will be the NYS DECs greatest opportunity for failure. In no case can dumping in existing surface water, placement in local sewage systems (including sewage processing plants), or long term (more than 45 days) on-




site storage even in closed steel tanks be considered acceptable. Independent testing of treated water shall be required with the expense born by the drilling company and the results included with the manifest for the load. This needs to be one of the strictest pre-requisites for issuing a permit to drill. (Enclosure #2) K. Utica Shale and other gas-bearing shales (Section 4.3) If hydrofracking is allowed in NY, the Utica Shale and other gasbearing shales should be subject to the same, or more stringent, regulations as the Marcellus shale. As-Built Wellbore Construction (Section While the requirement to have a state inspector present during casing cementing may offer some quality assurance regarding the integrity of the casing, the current staffing of the NYS DEC makes this seem more imaginative than reality based. Staffing levels have to be increased with qualified, impartial personnel that understand the magnitude of their responsibility to the future generations of New York State. The failures of well casings in high profile incidents like the Cabot failure in Pennsylvania and the BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico are lessons for future inspectors. Other State Regulatory Statements (Section 8.4 and Appendix 15) - Most of the statements presented seem inappropriately self serving for the gas industry. These documents are about two and one half years old and in many cases have been proven incorrect by subsequent investigations by EPA and others in various areas of the country. The idea that the DEC should include these pro drilling statements by present and former state officials around the country without considering the accuracy of the claims and the bias of those who wrote the letters is a disservice to the residents of New York State. (Enclosures 3 & 4)



It is fairly well known that many of the incidents of air and water pollution caused by the poor practices of the industry have been covered up through non-disclosure agreements limiting victims ability to come forward. The industry has a practice of requiring those who are harmed to sign a statement requiring their silence if they are to receive any kind of recompense for damage. It is also a fact that in many areas where HVHF was done early on there was no baseline testing of wells and ground water allowing the industry to claim that any bad environmental impacts found could have been present before the drilling. New York State would be better served if this entire section and appendix were removed from the rdSGEIS as it gives the appearance of an industry bias on the part of the NYS DEC. The reason there is such strong sentiment apposing HVHFHD is the poor track record of the industry in states where it is already practiced. Using statements from those states officials in the NYS document erodes the NYS DECs credibility.

These comments are offered for consideration in strengthening a flawed rdSGEIS. NOON sincerely believes that the only way to protect the world that current and future generations will live in is to ban this industrial process. The only way that we can be certain we will not have to apologize to our children is by banning this process. While progress on cleaning up Onondaga Lake gives us hope for its future, it also presents a lesson in decision making relative to the exploitation of our natural resources. Therefore, once again, Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation calls on the Governor and the NYS DEC to ban these unconventional drilling procedures in New York State. Respectfully Submitted,

Jack Ramsden Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON) Committee on Hydrofracking Cc: Governor Andrew Cuomo County Executive Joanne M. Mahoney Selected Members of the State Senate Selected Members of the State Assembly

Encls: 1. Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force Statement on Hydrofracking 2. Wastewater Wasteland (NOON White Paper) 3. Sandra Steingraber testimony before NYS Senate En Con Committee 1212-11 4. Amy Mall Blog (Natural Resources Defense Council) drinking water contamination 12-19-11