November 2008 Update
TWO IMPORTANT MEETINGS:
A CITIZENS GUIDE TO THE GAS DRILLING SCOPING
6:30 PM Monday December 1, 2008
Tusten Town Hall
This meeting will help the public prepare to speak at the DEC ‘scoping’ meeting on December 4th.
PUBLIC DEC SCOPING MEETING
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Sullivan County Community College
Fieldhouse, 112 College Road
Loch Sheldrake, NY 12759
This is our chance to have the DEC hear our concerns. Doors open at 4:30, the formal meeting begins at 5:15 and public comments will be heard at 6PM. (First come, first to be heard, so arrive early.)
LEASING ACTIVITY SLOWS, BUT DRILLING PLANS MOVE FORWARD
We’re all probably aware that the world economic crisis has led to a collapse in energy prices – we see it every time we pull into a service station. Gasoline spiked at over $4 a gallon in July, it’s now around $2.25 a gallon. Similarly, the wholesale price of natural gas is just about half what it was four months ago.
This dramatic price drop is one of the reasons that some of the major energy companies have temporarily scaled back activity in our area. In recent weeks, both Cabot and Chesapeake rescinded outstanding lease offers, and some companies have indicated they intend to drill fewer wells next year than they had originally anticipated.
Nevertheless, gas companies already have thousands of acres of Catskill land under contract, and there are clear signs that they intend to begin drilling next year. Chesapeake Energy has already applied to the Delaware River Basin River Commission for permission to withdraw up to a million gallons of water a day from the East Branch of the Delaware River near the town of Hancock, where large tracts of land have been leased.
Even as the gas companies finalize their plans, the rules and regulations that will govern gas extraction in our area are yet to be written. That’s because Governor Paterson ordered the DEC to reevaluate the environmental impact of the Marcellus Shale gas play before drilling gets underway.
New regulations will be based on an updating of a document known as a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) that was developed back 1992. Needless to say, this 16 year old document is hopelessly out of date; it never envisioned tapping the Marcellus Shale, or that drilling would take place in such critically important areas as the Delaware River Basin, the Catskill Preserve and the New York City watershed.
As a first step in revising the 1992 GEIS, the DEC released a draft ‘scoping’ document (Draft Scope for Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement) that outlines the issues that the Department thinks need to considered. Many elected officials and environmental advocates who have reviewed this DEC proposal have found it woefully inadequate. It fails to address a number of critical issues such as the need to permit gas extraction at a measured pace, and it explicitly refuses to consider the adverse impact that hundreds of miles of pipelines would have on our environment. More importantly, the draft scoping document, like the 1992 GEIS itself, ignores the fact that there aren’t any credible scientific studies that establish the safety of hydraulic fracturing.
THIS IS THE TIME TO SPEAK UP
Fortunately, the DEC and the gas industry don’t have the last word on the shape of things to come. Under state law, citizens are given the opportunity to weigh in on how gas drilling should be regulated and the December 4th ‘scoping’ meeting in Loch Sheldrake is our chance to be heard.
Catskill Citizens is preparing written and oral testimony, but we also encourage individuals to turn out and express their concerns. The gas industry and the proponents of drilling will turn out in force – make sure the DEC hears the other side of the story!
If you can’t attend the meeting on December 4th, you can submit written comments to the DEC at [email protected] (Use “Scope Comments” as the Subject header.) All comments must be received by December 15th.