This letter is being reproduced from Catskill Citizens for Clean Energy.
Under Commissioner Pete Grannis, the NYS DEC has concealed the Department’s shoddy safety record and misled the public about what’s really in fracking fluid.which is found on the home page of the website: http://catskillcitizens.org/.
Throughout 2008, when the gas industry was actively leasing land for shale gas extraction, the DEC misled the public by refusing to acknowledge that high-volume hydraulic fracturing of horizontal shale gas wells would be significantly different than previous gas drilling operations in New York State. Director Field’s mantra that hydraulic fracturing “has been going on in New York for decades”1 seemed deliberately designed to lull the public into thinking that the Marcellus Shale gas play would resemble the low-volume fracturing operations that we had seen in the past. Numerous inquiries to the Division of Mineral Resources prompted unsigned responses claiming that nothing new or different would be involved.
Also in 2008, the DEC succeeded in pushing a new well-spacing bill though the state legislature with little debate and scant public scrutiny. Although this “departmental” bill”2 was explicitly designed to facilitate the drilling of gigantic horizontal wells which threaten to radically alter the landscape of western New York, Commissioner Grannis disingenuously characterized it as “a technical program bill [that] had nothing to do with anything related to environmental protections.”3 Instead he claimed it was “designed to protect adjacent landowners”.4
This bill was quickly moved out of Committee and passed late at night, on the last day of the legislative session. Some lawmakers later complained that they weren’t even aware of the bill’s existence until hours before they were to vote on it. 5 Elected officials in New York City, and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, also felt blindsided by the swift enactment of this law which had enormous implications for the integrity of the city’s watershed.6
At a time when New Yorkers were just becoming aware of the dangers posed by toxic chemicals used in fracking fluid, the DEC misled the public by asserting that “Marcellus shale fracing operations in New York State use fresh water, sand, nitrogen and a diluted soapy solution to fracture the shale. These frac fluids do not contain benzene, toluene or xylene.“7 This May 2008 email from the DEC failed to mention any of the toxic chemicals used in fracking fluids except to say three dangerous chemicals were not used in New York. Of course we now know that the DEC was not telling the truth – fracking fluids contain dozens of chemicals including benzene, toluene and xylene.8
Perhaps most frustrating of all, New Yorkers have had to listen to Commissioner Grannis and Director Field parrot the industry line that there has not been “one instance of drinking water contamination in over one million frack jobs”.9
All over the country water wells have exploded or been rendered unusable because they have been contaminated by fracking fluid, methane or total dissolved solids due to nearby fracking operations. It’s bad enough to hear industry flacks claim that none of these case count as contamination, but it’s outrageous to hear this absurd claim coming from the very people who should be studying these environmental disasters, and trying to find a way to avoid repeating them in New York.
This manifest indifference to the harm caused by drilling accidents is infuriating. On at least one occasion, Mr. Field falsely dismissed an accident in Brookfield, New York as one where “a bit got stuck and muddied up a bunch of water wells.”10 This is a false and remarkably insensitive description of an incident in which some water wells were completely destroyed and others were left unusable for months on end.11
1. Director Field speaking at a public meeting in Liberty, New York July 1, 2008.
2. Commissioner Grannis testifying before the New York City Council Commission on Environmental Protection. September 10, 2008. Page 44 of the transcript.
3. Ibid. Page 45 of the transcript.
4. Ibid. Page 47 of the transcript.
5. ”This issue came to my attention when a bill regarding well spacing appeared before the Assembly for a vote with very little time to review the issue.” Testimony of Assembly Member Deborah Glick before the New York City Council Commission on Environmental Protection. September 10, 2008. Page 87 of the transcript.
6. See the remarks of Committee on Environmental Protection Chair James Gennaro. Transcript of hearing, September 10, 2008.
7. In a email message dated 5/28/2008 2:50:28 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
firstname.lastname@example.org wrote: “Industry has used horizontal well drilling in New York since the late 1980s. Hydraulic fracturing has been commonly and safely used in New York State for decades. Marcellus shale fracing operations in New York State use fresh water, sand, nitrogen and a diluted soapy solution to fracture the shale. These frac fluids do not contain benzene, toluene or xylene.”
8. Draft SGEIS pp 5.34-5.66.
9. Director Field speaking at a public meeting in Liberty, New York July 1, 2008.
See also this exchange between Commissioner Grannis and Assemblyman Jim Bacalles before the New York State Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, October 15, 2009
ASSEMBLYMAN JIM BACALLES: Pete, you mentioned that we have been fracing gas wells for a long time …But are you aware of anywhere where a drinking well or any kind of watershed has been affected by that drilling that’s been going on for 20 years or so?
MR. GRANNIS: We are not Jim. We have no reports of, you know, there are accidental spills that take place on the sites, but we have no reports of water contamination associated with.
Page 79 of transcript
10. Director Field speaking at a public meeting in Liberty, New York July 1, 2008.
11. The following articles originally appeared in the Syracuse Post:
SOME STILL WAIT FOR THEIR WATER BROOKFIELD SUPERVISOR SAYS MANY PROBLEMS WITH WELLS REMAIN UNSOLVED. Alaina Potrikus Staff writer
Nearly three months after an accident at a natural gas drilling site caused some backyard water wells to turn into geysers, some North Brookfield residents are still relying on bottled water to meet their daily needs.
Under Commissioner Pete Grannis, the NYS DEC has concealed the Department’s shoddy safety record and misled the public about what’s really in fracking fluid.
Note from Brian: I’ve written about the lies about “vertical is the same as horizontal,” and “they’ve been doing this for years,” and “there has never been any contamination.” You’d really have to be as dense as a fence post to still buy that stuff, but still people will believe anything if they are offered “free money” to believe it. It’s like the tooth fairy.
You can read more about it at these posts: