November 21, 2011
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Albany, New York 12233-6510
RE: Conesus Lake Association, Inc. Comments on the 2011 draft of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement regarding High Volume Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing (HVHF)
Dear Department of Environmental Conservation Representative:
The Conesus Lake Association, Inc. was incorporated in 1932 to protect the health, safety and welfare of the Conesus Lake, Livingston County, New York community. For the past 79 years, this Association has been a leading force in the ongoing effort to restore Conesus lake and its surrounding watershed to its former healthy and robust condition. It is in this spirit that the CLA is privileged to provide the following comments to NYSDEC regarding the draft SGEIS related to the practice of horizontal drilling for natural gas with high-volume hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking).
The natural gas contained in the Marcellus Shale formation is a valuable natural asset that can provide an enormous economic benefit to state and local governments, and to residents. The attention and activities of lake and watershed associations across New York State have justifiably been focused on the potential negative impacts of the natural gas drilling practices commonly known as horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing (hereinafter “ hydrofracking”), associated with the exploitation of this formation.
The Conesus Lake Association (“CLA”) believes that the only way for the benefits of future energy production to be realized for the long-term good of the Finger Lakes region is for all decision makers -- industry, governmental, environmental and others -- to make well informed decisions based on a thorough understanding of results of scientifically-based, completed research into the issues.
The CLA has not devoted resources to investigating this issue, nor do we pretend to have expertise in the issue. As laypeople, however, we do have fundamental concerns about the long-term impact of hydrofracking on the environment of our lake and watershed, as well as those of the other water bodies in New York State. Until ongoing state and federal research studies are completed, the CLA does not believe that sufficient scientifically-based information will be available to allow individuals and organizations to thoughtfully develop positions on this issue.
Based on our assessment of those documents, we believe that the resumption of the hydrofracking method of natural gas drilling in New York State without a completed scientifically-based analysis of all of the potential impacts of the processes, is both inappropriate and potentially threatening to the water quality of our water bodies and the health of our residents. All critical federal (EPA) and state (NYSDEC) studies must be completed and reviewed before New York State adopts regulations that can protect the long term environmental health of the Finger Lakes.
The CLA believes that NYSDEC should not adopt any hydrofracking regulations associated with the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale formation until all of the risks in the Finger Lakes region are understood and satisfactory answers are provided.
We believe that any NYSDEC position should contain, at a minimum, the following core principles:
*· The most valuable long term natural resource in the Finger Lakes region is its high quality fresh water.
·* Natural gas has short term value and its extraction should not be done in a way that risks polluting the water in this region.
*· The use of existing hydrofracking practices, including disposal of by-products, known to have environment problems should not be permitted anywhere in the Finger Lakes region and watersheds of New York State.
·* New York State’s current moratorium on hydrofracking should be extended, and no drilling permits should be issued until the USEPA study is completed.
·* New York State must adopt regulations that specifically address the issues identified in NYSDEC’s 2009 dSGEIS and other studies.
·* Critical issues unique to the Finger Lakes region must be identified and addressed, on an ongoing basis.
·* Particular emphasis must be placed on issues that will have long-term impact on surface and groundwater resources, and/or are irreparable. There must be recognition of the fact that individual Finger Lakes do not have an "infinite" volume of water, like oceans, to dilute contamination from hydrofracking.
*· New York State must establish and support, on an ongoing basis, a robust qualified staff of regulators and inspectors, independent of industry and political influence.
* Costs for monitoring and inspecting wells, and disposal of wastes shall be funded by the industry, not New York State residents.
*· All costs of repair and maintenance of damaged land resources and other local infrastructure, such as roads, shall be funded by the industry.
We believe that the economics of the environmentally and fiscally responsible exploitation of the state’s natural gas resources will ultimately be decided by the energy market. Any analysis of the longer term economic, environmental, or national security impacts of competing energy sources, whether from traditional or emerging technologies, is highly complex and should be undertaken by those most qualified to respond to those issues.
The Conesus Lake Association remains concerned that NYSDEC’s attention not be diverted from a laser sharp focus on the critical water and related land resource issues specifically associated with hydrofracking.
Wayne B. France
Copies to: Finger Lakes Regional Watershed Alliance
Conesus Lake Watershed Council