By now it seems almost everyone has heard that energy companies are trying to lease land so that they can drill for natural gas. A lease can mean big money – as much $2,500 an acre upfront and maybe more in royalties if the drillers sink a producing well.

But gas drilling means more than just money, it also means access roads and pipelines, diesel fumes and 24/7 noise.

And then there’s the water. The gas beneath our land is trapped in rock, and to free the gas, the drillers will have to use a process called hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracing’ which requires an enormous an amount of water. Millions gallons of water will be pumped out of our ponds and streams or drawn from the same aquifers that replenish our wells and supply our homes with drinking water. All this water will be blasted deep underground to create immense pressure that breaks up the rock and releases the gas.

In most parts of the country gas companies treat this water with toxic chemicals before pumping it into the ground. They promise us that they won’t do that here. Even so, when the water is pumped back out of the ground, it can be contaminated with everything from poisonous heavy metals to radioactive materials to volatile organic compounds that are known to cause cancer.

There’s no doubt about it, gas drilling is a rough business and there are lots of things about it that can’t be made better. Even the best run outfit is going to crowd our roads with heavy equipment, and all that water is going to have to come from somewhere. This is the price we pay for extracting an important resource that all of us use.

Still, risks that can be minimized should be minimized. And landowners who sign leases can do their part by making sure those leases include important safeguards.


1. Require drillers to store their fracing fluids and waste waters in steel containers rather than open pits. Closed steel containers can go a long way toward preventing groundwater contamination due to leaking and flooding. They will also limit air pollution by preventing the release of volatile cancer causing compounds.

2. Require gas drillers to pay for testing our wells which may become contaminated by drilling. Comprehensive testing for even a single well can cost up to $1000. That’s an expense that many of us can’t afford, and none of us should have to pay. The cost of ensuring the safety of our drinking water should be covered by the gas companies who will make a profit on the gas.

3. Require gas companies to disclose all the chemicals they use in their operations. We can’t safeguard our soil and water if we don’t know what dangerous chemicals pose a threat to us. (If the gas company promises you that they won’t use any chemicals, get that promise in writing!)

4. Require drillers to be bonded so that there’s money available to clean up toxic spills and compensate residents who are harmed by drilling accidents.

Paid for by Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, a non-profit grassroots community group that believes we all have to work to together to ensure that natural gas extraction doesn’t harm our health, our environment or other important sectors of our economy.

For more information, to become a member, or to make a donation go to