NYS Drilling Moratorium : Aileen Gunther


During the month of March, many residents of New York State were asked to contact their State Representatives about several pieces of proposed legislation having to do with hydraulic fracturing:

  • A10088 which prohibits “on-site storage of flowback water.”   (After toxic hydraulic fracturing fluid is injected into the shale bed,  15-40% of the toxic soup is recovered as “flowback water”  and is frequently stored in open pits at the fracking site.  60-85% of  the injected fluid is left in the shale bed.);
  • A10090 which prohibits the “disposal of drill cuttings at the drilling site.”  (Drill cuttings are the primarily solid pieces generated as the drill bores through the earth.  For those familiar with wood or metal drills,  think of the shavings created as the drill rotates and penetrates a  2 x  4 or metal bar. During hydraulic fracturing, drills bore thousands of feet.  The resultant “cuttings”  are composed of  NORMs (Naturally  Occurring Radioactive Materials) and other toxins which, according to  New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) qualifies  them as  “hazardous waste.”  In justifying the  need for A10090,  its sponsors state, “In their hearing testimony, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) indicated that a multiple horizontal well site will generate 100 to 500 times the volume of cuttings generated at a vertical well site. More importantly, the Marcellus formation has been shown to be high in pyrite. Oxidation and leaching of pyretic shale produces Acid Mine Discharge (AMD) which can lead to significant water impairments. Unfortunately, in the Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS), the Department of Environmental Conservation proposes to prohibit only the on-site disposal of cuttings contaminated with drilling mud.”
  • A10091 which would require “the disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluids; and, *[prohibit] the use of hydraulic fracturing fluids containing chemicals that pose a risk to human health including, but not limited to, fluids that are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (as defined by the EPA) or are known mutagens. Effects of Present Law Which This Bill Would Alter: Amends section 23-0305 (8)(d) of the Environmental Conservation Law.”
  • A10092 which  “Requires an environmental impact statement to be prepared for any natural gas or oil drilling involving the use of hydraulic fracturing fluid.”
  • A08784 which “Requires permit holders to test groundwater prior to and after drilling wells for oil and natural gas.”
  • A9414 which “Establishes the natural gas exploration and extraction liability act of 2010.”  (Of the initiative,  Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy has said, “This bill would not apply to the million and a half acres already leased in New York State and for that reason we think it needs to be amended.”)

On April 5, 2010,  Breathing received the following note from Aileen Gunther  (Assembly District 98) “A new bill has been introduced (A10490) by Assemblyman Englebright to establish a moratorium on conducting hydraulic fracturing for the extraction of natural gas or oil until 120 days after the Federal EPA issues their report on the effects of fracking on water quality and public health. I am a co-sponsor of this bill.  I am hearing positive response from individuals and groups regarding this newly introduced legislation.   Although I have not officially signed on as a sponsor of many of the bills you reference, I do support the bills and will support them when they come before the EnCon [Environmental Conservation] committee or to the floor.”  (Bold added for emphasis.)

Although some activists who support a total moratorium have questioned  A10490’s  120-day limit, others believe it’s a middle-of-the-road position — neither obstructing nor approving hydraulic fracturing until a comprehensive study of its effects is completed.  In the past,  the  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found many faults with NYS DEC’s draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement   (dSGEIS).   Currently, completion and submission  of the dSGEIS is the basis of   New York’s  de facto moratorium. Obviously, A10490 would extend that moratorium  until the completion of EPA’s  “comprehensive research study.”

For  more information concerning the status of the proposed legislation in this article or to contact Ms. Gunther, please follow the supplied-links.  To find your New York State Legislators and to let them know how you feel about the legislation,  please visit the New York State Assembly and/or Senate pages.

As  readers of Breathing Is Political’s “Inverse Condemnation” article  may remember,  NYS Senator John Bonacic has staked a  position on hydraulic fracturing which is different than Ms. Gunther’s and although that position is  protective of lessors,  it does not address the larger issues of human and environmental health.

Coming next:  Local conflicts of interests and incorporating  the above-legislative initiatives into Town and County Board resolutions.

7 thoughts on “NYS Drilling Moratorium : Aileen Gunther

  1. callicoonist

    Thank you for this info. The case against fracking becomes more and more damning. I wonder, has somebody put together a simple one page graphic listing PROS and CONS? (I think there are only two PROs… that certain landowners may make some money… while destroying the resale value of their land… and gas companies will make money and potentially employ some people.)

  2. lizbucar Post author

    Dear Callicoonist,

    There are good fact sheets at Un-natural Gas, The Mountainkeeper, The Riverkeeper, Shale Shock, Damascus Citizens…. In fact, check any of the sites in my blogroll that focus on drilling. As to a single page, I’m not familiar with anything but I think you’re absolutely right that it would be extremely useful. Especially so if folks are interested in conducting door-to-door informational visits or if organizations are interested in sending out mailings or just forwarding easily-digested bits to other local civic groups. I’ll see what I can find out. Thanks!

  3. Victoria Lesser

    I just might get a good nights sleep tonight, just knowing that we might be waking up to this impending threat from Gas drillers, to the health and well being of New York. The P.R. about how we must end our dependence on foreign fuel fails to let us know how much foreign investment is being made into the Marcellus Shale from Foreign Companies. So while the fuel they seek is under our feet, we will still be buying it from foreign companies. Lets all thank Eileen Gunther…

  4. lizbucar Post author

    Amen, Victoria! I hope lots of people contact her with kudos. And I hope lots of people use the legislation being proposed to write citizen-generated resolutions for presentation to their town boards.

  5. Tanyette

    Liz,

    As always, amazing reporting thank you for fueling us with additional knowledge on this subject. I posted this on FB and Twitter already.

  6. lizbucar Post author

    Thank you, Tanyette! It might be worth it for PA residents to check the PA Attorney General’s site for conflict of interests opinions (per the other article posted today)… Liz

  7. Jack Hirschfeld

    Ever since she took office, Aileen Gunther has proved to be very sensitive to an often very divided constituency, and has demonstrated a generally principled approach to her work, unlike most legislators. I don’t always agree with her, but her explanations of her positions are always carefully considered and if she sometimes errs on the side of caution (in my opinion) it seems to be motivated by protection of the citizenry, rather than protection of her own political success Although I am no longer a constituent (or neighbor) of hers, I continue to admire her approach to her duties. As for Breahing is Political, as usual I am awestruck by your clarity and persistence in your advocacy. I will send kudos separately to Aileen, as you suggest, but my hat’s off to you here.

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