General Counsel for the Onondaga Nation
Attorney at Law
716 E. Washington St., Suite 104
Syracuse, New York 13210-1502
January 11 2012
Attn: dSGEIS Comments
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Albany, NY 12233-6510
RE: DRAFT SUPPLEMENTAL GENERIC ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT ON THE OIL, GAS, AND SOLUTION MINING REGULATORY PROGRAM
Well Permit Issuance for Horizontal Drilling and High-volume Hydraulic Fracturing to Develop the Marcellus Shale and Other Low-permeability Gas Reservoirs
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing in my capacity as General Counsel for the Onondaga Nation, to express the following specific concerns about the above-referenced document, hereinafter the dSGEIS, and to ensure that the Onondaga Nation’s views on the subject are a matter of public record. These comments do not imply any form of support for the NYSDEC’s regulation of this process, nor for the drilling itself and are not to be interpreted to abrogate or compromise the Nation’s right to challenge these destructive activities.
Indeed, the Onondaga Nation remains resolutely committed to its absolute opposition to the practice of high-volume slick-water hydraulic fracturing, with horizontal drilling. This position was articulated in the Haudenosaunee Statement on Hydrofracking, which was hand delivered to Executive Deputy Commissioner Stuart Gruskin during our meeting on October 30, 2009 and another copy is attached hereto, as Exhibit “A”.
Further, as a sovereign Nation, with a treaty relationship with the federal government, this letter is not being submitted as a member of the general public of New York State; rather this letter is being submitted on a government-to-government basis and as part of the consultation process recognized in your agency’s March 29, 2009 Contact, Cooperation, and Consultation with Indian Nations policy statement. That being said, we expect to see these comments responded to and addressed in the publicly available record.
Prior comments on the dSGEIS were submitted to the NYSDEC on December 31, 2009 and are attached as Exhibit “B”. It is with great concern that the Onondaga Nation notes that, to our knowledge, none of these prior comments and expressed concerns were addressed in the 2011 revision of the dSGEIS. The NYSDEC’s decision to release the response to comments summary only after the final SGEIS is completed makes it difficult to know what happened- is it a case of the comments being deliberately ignored, or simply misplaced? We are therefore reiterating the 2009 comments here and expect a response to these as well as new comments below. In summary:
1. The dSGEIS fails to protect cultural and archaeological resources;
2. The dSGEIS fails to respect the treaty rights of the Haudenosaunee Nations;
3. The dSGEIS fails to protect the water rights of the Onondaga Nation;
4. The dSGEIS, horizontal drilling, and compulsory integration violate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
5. The use of a Generic Environmental Impact Statement is not authorized by New York State Law; and
6. The NYSDEC has failed to take a “hard look” at the environmental impacts of the proposed activity.
CONSIDERATION FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
The first paragraph of the Onondaga Nation’s Land Rights Action reads:
The Nation and its people have a unique spiritual, cultural, and historic relationship with the land, which is embodied in Gayanashagowa, the Great Law of Peace. This relationship goes far beyond federal and state legal concepts of ownership, possession or legal rights. The people are one with the land, and consider themselves stewards of it. It is the duty of the Nation’s leaders to work for a healing of this land, to protect it, and to pass it on to future generations.
It is in this spirit that the Onondaga Nation shares these further comments, for the future of us all. In addition to many of the environmental and socioeconomic concerns raised by others, these are our primary concerns:
THE DSGEIS DOES NOT ADEQUATELY PROTECT WATER
Drilling for shale gas and hydraulic fracturing is an industrial activity, with the environmental impacts of industrial activities. Section 6.1.4 notes:
The wellbore being drilled, completed or produced, or a nearby wellbore that is ineffectively sealed, has the potential to provide subsurface pathways for groundwater pollution from well drilling, flowback or production operations.
This is of course true for conventional vertical drilling as well, but that does not make it acceptable. Clearly the DEC guidelines under the 1992 SGEIS have not prevented problems from occurring nor have they offered adequate solutions for families that find their wells affected (Exhibit C). Table 6.31 conservatively estimates that over 42,000 wells will be drilled within the next 30 years, nearly six times as many than were operating in NYS in 2010, according to Section 126.96.36.199 Historic Well Density. The process that is being proposed is both more intensive and extensive than has been seen before in this area, dramatically increasing the opportunity for accidents, spills, and well casing failures. Despite the DEC’s best efforts, accidents do happen. The Onondaga Nation has not been impressed with the DEC’s concept of “remediation” as exercised in the Onondaga Lake cleanup, and remain skeptical that any higher standard will be applied to cleaning up spills and accidents with shale gas drilling.
The list of prohibitions and mitigation measures in section 1.8 will partially protect only very limited areas, leaving waters outside of these areas at greater risk from the impacts of shale gas drilling. The Onondaga Nation appreciates the thoughtfulness that has gone into the measures described in section 7.1.3 to prevent and mitigate surface spills and releases at the well pad, but again does not believe that these measures will be wholly protective of the natural world. This appears to be echoed in the DEC’s prohibition of well pads within Primary Aquifers and requiring site-specific review above Principal Aquifers. In section 188.8.131.52 it is written:
The Department has determined that the activities associated with high-volume hydraulic fracturing pose a risk of causing significant adverse impacts to Primary Aquifers and, therefore, such operations may not be consistent with the long-term protection of Primary Aquifers. The Department finds that standard stormwater control and other mitigation measures may not fully mitigate the risk of potential significant adverse impacts on these water resources from spills or other releases that could occur in connection with high-volume hydraulic fracturing operations.
The justification given is as follows:
Contamination of a Primary Aquifer could render a large, concentrated population without drinking water. Replacing a drinking water source of this magnitude would be prohibitive because of exorbitant costs.
The Onondaga Nation respectfully disagrees with the criteria used above to protect some areas from hydrofracking and not others. All waters are used by someone, be they human or animal, bird or fish. Also, outside of New York’s cites, everyone relies on private wells that draw drinking water from mostly shallow aquifers. Therefore, all waters deserve protection.
Further, there is no adequate method for treatment of the flowback fluids, produced water, and brines associated with this process. The prohibition against road spreading of flowback fluids and production brines in section 184.108.40.206 and the tracking of flowback fluid outlined in section 220.127.116.11, in a manner similar to the way medical waste is tracked, is a good start, as a method to prevent illegal dumping. However, there are still problems with all of the actual disposal methods proposed in the SGEIS.
Section 18.104.22.168 proposes sending flowback fluids to POTWs. An intern for Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation in 2010 interviewed Mr. Bruce Ross at the Auburn Wastewater Treatment Plant (Exhibit D). Through this interview we are aware that a pre-treatment program only requires testing of the fluids being delivered, on a quarterly basis from each well instead of each truckload. NORMs are not tested for, and only a limited number of pollutants are tested for, both during the pre-treatment testing as well as at the end of the pipe for SPDES compliance. Pass-through pollution is of great concern. In April of 2011, the PADEP requested all Marcellus Shale operations to stop disposal of drilling wastewater at municipal sewage treatment plants, citing high levels of TDS and bromides that have passed through the plants and into local rivers, jeopardizing downstream drinking water intake facilities (Exhibit E). POTWs are designed to treat human waste, not the salinity, radioactivity, and many other pollutants found in flowback fluids. Therefore, fracking flowback fluids and produced brine from shale gas wells should not be sent to POTWs either in New York or in any other state.
Underground Injection is proposed in section 22.214.171.124 as the other ultimate disposal method of the flowback fluids and produced brines. This is also an unacceptable option, for two reasons. First, underground injection of fluids is known by the US Geologic Survey (Exhibit F) to cause earthquakes, as has been demonstrated in Texas, Arkansas, and Ohio (Exhibit G). Secondly, this practice permanently removes vast quantities of water that was previously part of our rivers, lakes, and streams from the hydrologic cycle by sequestering it deep underground.
THE SGEIS DOES NOT PROTECT ARCHEOLOGICAL AND CULTURAL RESOURCES AND VIOLATES NY STATE LAW
The SGEIS and the proposed revisions to the regulations leave New York’s cultural and archeological resources shamefully unprotected. Despite substantial, documented destruction of these irreplacable sites by hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania (see Exhibit H), New York has not only failed to provide adequate protection it has wholly failed to follow the procedures required by New York’s Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Law. (“NYPRHP Law”). The inevitable destruction of these valuable resources, which include not merely a record of human history but also human remains and sacred objects, under these completely inadequate guidelines, raises serious concerns, and New York should be concerned about this the flagrant disregard of the law.
§ 14.09 of the NY Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Law (“NYPRHP Law”) requires state agencies undertaking activities with the potential to affect cultural resources to give notice to and consult with the Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPHRP) “if it appears that any aspect of the project may or will cause any change, beneficial or adverse, in the quality of any historic, architectural, archeological, or cultural property that is listed” on the national or state register of historic places or is determined to be eligible for listing on the state register. The specific types of potential adverse impacts identified by the statute include:
(a) destruction or alteration of all or part of a property;
(b) isolation or alteration of its surrounding environment;
(c) introduction of visual, audible, or atmospheric elements that are out of character with the property or alter its setting; or
(d) neglect of property resulting in its deterioration or destruction.
This law dovetails with the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which includes in its definition of “environment”: “objects of historic or aesthetic significance.” (NY Environmental Conservation Law 8-0105(6).) Accordingly, it is unquestioned that the Department is required to evaluate the effect of gas extraction, transportation and construction on archeological and cultural resources.
Unfortunately, it appears that at this time there is no provision for consideration of the impacts of hydraulic fracturing projects on cultural resources. In a recent example, the NYSDEC issued a permit for a well in Guilford, NY (Permit #: 31-017-26495) which appears to authorize substantial ground disturbance without consideration of the project’s impact on cultural resources. SHPO, reportedly under-informed about the scope of the ground disturbance associated with the project, issued a no-impact letter indicating that the project would not likely affect cultural resources even though the site is located within an area designated by SHPO as sensitive due to its proximity to a known site. According to local residents, the site, known as Spreutel’s Site is is the source of numerous artifacts dating from 5500 B.C., was the site of an Oneida Village and is close to an encampment used by Joseph Brant. Although the NYSDEC permit contains detailed provisions for the conservation of topsoil from the site, there is no mention of or consideration given to the substantial potential for disturbance of archeological resources at the site.
Clearly reference to New York’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s inventory of known archeological sites is an initial step toward avoiding impacts. As the Guilford well demonstrates, use of the inventory is wholly ineffective if the OPHRP is not provided with sufficient information about the potential for ground disturbance at the site. Moreover, it is commonly recognized, as documented in the attached NYAC letter related to the dSGEIS (Exhibit I) that the inventory of known sites is not sufficiently extensive to protect the many sensitive archeological and cultural resources in New York State.
The extensive ground disturbing activities associated with drilling, including the construction of well pads, access roads, pipelines, compressor stations and other appurtenant structures will destroy any cultural or archeological resources located in the soil. Should those resources include any human remains, the disturbance of those remains is a great desecration, as discussed in the attached Statement on Human Remains. (Exhibit J). In light of the serious impacts which will result from the extensive ground disturbance of tens of thousands of acres , and the explicit statutory language requiring evaluation and mitigation of adverse impacts, the NYSDEC’s continued and ongoing blatant disregard of its obligation to protect these resources is inexcusable.
PRHPL § 14.09 (1) reads in pertinent part:
Every agency shall fully explore all feasible and prudent alternatives and give due consideration to feasible and prudent plans which avoid or mitigate adverse impacts on such property. In the event that the agency has filed or will file with the department of environmental conservation, with respect to that contemplated project, a draft environmental impact statement pursuant to the provisions of article eight of the environmental conservation law, it shall provide a copy thereof to the commissioner [of OPHRP] and the chairman of the board [of Historic Preservation] and shall also supply such further information as the commissioner may request.
Because the SGEIS has the practial effect of removing the permitting process for all gas drilling from the notice and public hearing requirements of SEQRA, there will not be any notice to any Haudenosaunee Nation or to OPRHP of these ground disturbing well pads, roads or pipelines. As we discussed in our October 30, 2009 meeting with Executive Deputy Commissioner Gruskin regarding the 2009 dSGEIS, and have raised in numerous subsequent conversations and consultations, this failure to notify, consult with or properly protect archeological resources raises profound environmental justice implications.
As we have noted in the past, this failure to notify, consult with or properly protect archeological resources is in direct violation of § III (D) the Department’s Contact, Cooperation, and Consultation with Indian Nations policy statement. The Department needs to reconsider its procedures to ensure protection of the artifacts, burials, and other archeological and cultural resources which are part of the heritage not only of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy but also of all New York residents.
PROTECT THE ONONDAGA NATION’S TREATY-PROTECTED TERRITORY
As noted in the Nation’s 2009 comments, there are federal Indian reserved water rights attaching to the Onondaga Nation’s currently recognized territory, as well as the larger area recognized by the Treaties of Fort Stanwix and Canandaigua, the boundaries of which have never been terminated. The Onondaga Nation asserts that the drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and associated activities permitted by the dSGEIS will unacceptably harm those waters, and calls on the NYSDEC to prohibit high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing throughout the Onondaga Nation’s treaty-protected territory.
Of critical importance is the protection of the Onondaga Lake and Onondaga Creek watersheds, of which the Onondaga Nation’s currently recognized territory is part. Onondaga Creek is listed as impaired on New York State’s Section 303 (d) List of Impaired Waterbodies for high turbidity. This is attributed to “streambank erosion”, which does not adequately capture the geological instability of the Tully Valley as a result of the Solvay Process brine mining there for over 100 years, and the resulting mudboils which are dumping high quantities of sediment into Onondaga Creek. This, combined with the toxic pollution of Onondaga Lake, has resulted in the loss of fishing from the Onondaga Nation’s territory, as most fish can no longer survive in these conditions.
Concern over hydrofracking in the Onondaga Creek and Tully Valley watershed was expressed by the EPA in their December 2009 comments on the 2009 draft SGEIS.
The Onondaga Nation has taken an active role in the remediation of both Onondaga Creek and Onondaga Lake, and will fight to protect the small gains in water quality that have been achieved. Any further pollution from widespread industrial drilling throughout the watersheds is unconscionable.
THE DSGEIS DOES NOT ADEQUATELY PROTECT THE ONONDAGA NATION’S WATER SUPPLY
The Onondaga Nation’s spring, combined with the Onondaga Nation’s state-of-the-art drinking water delivery system, provides clean, healthy drinking water to every home on the Onondaga Nation’s territory. It is the public water supply for the Onondaga Nation’s residents.
The DEC has recently claimed during a telephone call, that because the Onondaga Nation’s spring is within the area mapped as above the Onondaga Creek principal aquifer, it is protected. The Onondaga Nation does not agree. First, the SGEIS only requires a site-specific environmental review for drilling within principal aquifers or 500 feet thereof, and individual SPDES permits for stormwater discharges. Second, this protection is proposed by the DEC to be re-evaluated after two years. Third, the Onondaga Nation’s spring is likely more closely tied to near-surface groundwater than the deeper aquifer under Onondaga Creek, as it flows out of the hillside above Onondaga Creek. It is very likely that it is affected by areas that are not protected by the Onondaga Creek aquifer designation, areas in which gas leases are already signed (Exhibit L).
As noted by page 9 of the Executive Summary, “Potential significant adverse impacts on water resources exist with regard to water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing; stormwater runoff; surface spills, leaks and pit or surface impoundment failures; [and] groundwater impacts associated with well drilling and construction.”
The DEC has a responsibility to the Onondaga Nation to protect this source of water. The Onondaga Nation requests that the NYSDEC at an absolute minimum recognizes this important source of water as a public drinking water supply subject to equal or greater protection as those under the jurisdiction of the ECL.
Further, the 150 foot setback from private water wells and domestic supply springs described in section 2.4.5, as well as the 2000 foot setback of well pads (described in Section 126.96.36.199) from public water supplies is inadequate, not only for the Onondaga Nation’s spring but for all who live in this area. According to hydrogeologist Paul Rubin, “Pumping test data provides solid documentation for mandating minimum setback distance to at least 2,100 feet as measured from the outer boundary of well arrays to all water resources and homeowner wells,” (Emphasis added) (Exhibit M).
As noted in the SGEIS in section 7.1.5 regarding the Filtration Avoidance Determination (FAD) watersheds, the Department finds that standard stormwater control and other mitigation measures would not fully mitigate the risk of potential significant adverse impacts on water resources from high-volume hydraulic fracturing. Even with such controls in place, the risk of spills and other unplanned events resulting in the discharge of pollutants associated with high-volume hydraulic fracturing operations, even if relatively remote, would have significant consequences in these unfiltered water supplies.
The Onondaga Nation agrees with this assessment, and believes the same to hold true in regards to all waterbodies and wells. The FAD watersheds are accorded a 4000′ buffer. The Onondaga Nation deserves no less protection for their sole water supply, as do the thousands of rural people who depend on drinking water wells.
THE DSGEIS FAILS TO ADEQUATELY CONSIDER THE IMPACTS TO THE NORTHERN MARCELLUS SHALE OR UTICA SHALE REGIONS
Section 2.3 of the SGEIS describes “The prospective region for the extraction of natural gas from Marcellus and Utica Shales has been roughly described as an area extending from Chautauqua County eastward to Greene, Ulster and Sullivan Counties, and from the Pennsylvania border north to the approximate location of the east-west portion of the New York State Thruway between Schenectady and Auburn.”
However, the “representative regions” analyzed for impacts in the socioeconomic analysis in Section 2.4.11, the Environmental Justice analysis in section 188.8.131.52, the community character impact analysis in Section 2.4.15, and the Visual Resources analysis in Section 2.4.12 are restricted to Southern Tier regions, more specifically, all counties that border Pennsylvania. The geology, hydrology, economies, and environmental justice considerations of these areas are not representative of the areas above the Utica Shale or the northern aspects of the Marcellus Shale.
In short, the NYSDEC has failed to consider the impacts to over half of the region proposed for shale gas drilling. This will not only negatively impact future generations, but generations currently living in these areas. If the DEC has not studied the potential impacts to these areas, there is no way that well-reasoned decisions may be made. Therefore, all areas not studied should be removed from consideration for hydrofracking due to a sheer lack of data.
CLIMATE CHANGE WILL BE EXACERBATED BY SHALE GAS DRILLING
“The ice is melting in the north,” Onondaga Nation Faithkeeper Oren Lyons told the U.N. World Peace Summit in 2000, warning about the dire impacts of climate change that were already being felt by Indigenous Peoples in arctic regions around the world.
Not only does shale gas drilling perpetuate society’s dependence on, and use of, fossil fuels, the process itself is a direct contributor to global warming at levels comparable to or worse than coal, according to a 2011 study by Dr. Robert Howarth and Prof. Tony Ingraffea at Cornell University.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential that is far greater than that of carbon dioxide, particularly over the time horizon of the first few decades following emission. Methane contributes substantially to the greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas on shorter time scales, dominating it on a 20-year time horizon. The footprint for shale gas is greater than that for conventional gas or oil when viewed on any time horizon, but particularly so over 20 years. Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over 100 years.
This analysis is further supported by the substantially revised analysis of emissions and other greenhouse gases produced from shale gas drilling by the U.S. EPA in 2011.
The SGEIS does not cite these studies or address their implications, thereby failing to use the best available science in its determination and failing to take a hard look at this critical environmental issues of climate change.
The SGEIS relies on the Draft 2009 New York State Energy Plan’s claims that natural gas can help the state meet its climate change objectives (page 2-5). Section 6.6.4 cites the GRI‘s Methane Emissions from the Natural Gas Industry, a 1997 publication, as the “primary reference for emission rates for stationary production equipment”.
For the comparison of methane with carbon dioxide, the SGEIS relies on an out-of-date 2009 fact sheet from Chesapeake Energy Corporation (page 6-201).
We are aware that Dr. Howarth has submitted comments on this topic for the SGEIS and encourage the DEC to carefully consider his critique. Shale gas is not a “bridge fuel” – it is a bridge to nowhere. A better energy plan, that would move New York from its oil and gas habit to renewable energy sources, must be developed, for all of our futures.
THE DSGEIS IGNORES TRADITIONAL ECOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE
The Onondaga Nation is guided by Original Teachings, so that they may have a good life on this earth and in the future. These teachings include to not dig deep into Mother Earth below the surface that people live on. These teachings are a form of Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and are supported by the scientific realities of methane migration, radium in shale, and earthquakes caused by injection wells.
The “Duke University study” (Attachment N) documents methane contamination of drinking water wells within 1 km of gas drilling wells at concentrations (avg. 19.2 mg/L) far exceeding background concentrations (1.1 mg/L), which are similar to the background concentrations of methane contamination (avg. 0.79 mg/L) documented by Section 4.7 of the dSGEIS. Clearly, there is some connection between the drilling and methane migration to these wells.
The teachings against disturbing the deep ground are also supported by the rash of earthquakes in areas where deep well injection for disposal of fluids is taking place – such as Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and England. “That fluid injections in deep disposal wells can cause earthquakes is well known and has received considerable study,” according to Dave Pratt of the NYSDEC Division of Mineral Resources in a 2001 internal DEC memo, obtained by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (Exhibit O). The USGS concurs (as noted in Exhibit E), and this reality is acknowledged in Section 4.5.4 of the dSGEIS but does not seem to be taken into account in Section 184.108.40.206, where injection wells are promoted as a viable option for the disposal of flowback fluids.
The Onondaga Nation is currently experiences very negative proof of this teaching against disturbing the deep ground, as the century of solution salt mining in the Tully Valley, 1200 feet below the valley floor, has resulted in the Tully Valley mudboils and their deposits of 30 tons of silt per day into Onondaga Creek. These mudboils have destroyed Onondaga Creek as a source of trout and other fish for the Nation and it citizens, and as a cultural resource for the Nation.
LACK OF HEALTH ASSESSMENT
It is noted with great concern that no human health assessment was undertaken in this entire 1500+ page document, despite warnings of health impacts from experts in endocrine disruption such as Dr. Theo Colburn and Dr. Adam Law, and evidence of very serious health problems from Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Wyoming. Representatives of the Onondaga Nation and the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force have met personally with residents of Texas and Pennsylvania whose health, or that of their children, has seriously declined after gas drilling began in their area, and feel strongly that this evidence points to undocumented health impacts that need to be researched thoroughly. Of additional concern is the lack of any tracking for human health impacts. Clearly, part of the current difficulty of assessing health impacts is the lack of data conveyed to the DEC from prior events, due to a non-existent reporting structure between and within both the DEC and the NYS Department of Health for incidents of water well contamination and air pollution.
Section 6.1.3 seemingly dismisses concerns of health risks from spills, noting that “the NYSDOH concluded that the proposed additives contain similar types of chemical constituents as the products that have been used for many years for hydraulic fracturing of traditional vertical wells in NYS.” Vertical wells in western New York have caused significant health and safety problems for neighboring citizens, as documented by the Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties Health Departments.
There is much more known about endocrine disruptors and carcinogens today than there was in 1992. The chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing should be evaluated against health studies, not against a prior version of a similar document that has been documented to be inadequate.
We support the use of the precautionary principle, particularly seeing as science and western medicine has not advanced to the point where it can adequately describe and address what is impacting people in these drilling areas.
THE SPECIES WHICH SHARE OUR EARTH ARE NOT PROTECTED
In Section 6.4, the SGEIS acknowledges:
Habitat loss, conversion, and fragmentation (both short-term and long-term) would result from land grading and clearing, and the construction of well pads, roads, pipelines, and other infrastructure associated with gas drilling. In addition to loss of habitat, other potential direct impacts on wildlife from drilling in the Marcellus Shale include increased mortality, increase of edge habitats, altered microclimates, and increased traffic, noise, lighting, and well flares. Existing regulation of wellhead and compressor station noise levels is designed to protect human noise receptors. Little definitive work has been done on the effects of noise on wildlife.
The efforts in Section 220.127.116.11 to reduce indirect and cumulative effects of habitat fragmentation on large grassland and forest blocks are appreciated.
However, the SGEIS still permits drilling in these areas. The vibrations, noise, and fumes associated with drilling are not isolated to the drilling pads. Therefore, drilling pads should not be sited within or nearby significant grassland or forest habitat. Additionally, the size thresholds used remove many smaller grasslands and forests from consideration for similar protection. In areas of increasing development, smaller blocks of grassland and forest, while not as ecologically robust as large blocks, still provide critical habitat for many species. Mason et. al. (2006) found that suburban greenways 300 m wide (at least 22 acres in size) provided key habitat for many forest-interior species.
AIR QUALITY WILL BE COMPROMISED
Air pollution is a serious concern with this industry. People in other states subjected to the fumes from nearby well pads complain of headaches, nosebleeds, and more serious chronic health effects. The geography of this area is much different than the flat plains of Wyoming. Ozone, smog, and other pollutants settle in our valleys, concentrating the impacts to specific populations.
An Associated Press article from March 9, 2011 (attached, as Exhibit P) highlights that this industry creates significantly negative air quality impacts. In the Upper Green River Basin of Wyoming,
preliminary data show ozone levels March 2 got as high as 124 parts per billion. That’s two-thirds higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum healthy limit of 75 parts per billion and above the worst day in Los Angeles all last year, 114 parts per billion, according to EPA records. Ozone levels in the basin reached 116 on March 1 and 104 on [March 5].
Serious questions about the SGEIS’s ability to address the impacts of air pollution have been raised by many experts. Robert Kohut of Cornell University points to the lack of assessment of potential increases of ambient ozone and their impacts on agriculture and native plants (Exhibit Q).
The list of regulations in Section 6.5 that may be applicable, and the proposed amendments to air regulations for the oil and natural gas industry that are currently under review by the EPA, all only serve to reduce air pollutants, and not eliminate them. The proposed method outlined in section 18.104.22.168 for reducing exposure to benzene, a carcinogen, from glycol dehydrators at well pads is simply to require a 30′ stack. This only serves to shift the impacts, not eliminate them.
THE DISHONEST LEASING PRACTICES PERPETUATED ON OUR NEIGHBORS ECHO THE THEFT OF NATIVE NATIONS’ LAND
According to research done by Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation, over 1900 gas leases have been signed in Onondaga County. I have been working with neighboring landowners through lease termination workshops and pro bono review of leases to assist landowners who wish to get out of their leases now that they know the processes that will be used on their property. To date, I have reviewed over 400 leases.
A common refrain heard from landowners is “had I known about hydraulic fracturing, I would never have signed the lease. I thought it was going to be a small well.” The methods of extraction were never discussed when the landmen came to their doors. In my experience, and as documented in an article by Elizabeth Radow, Esq. in the NY Bar Association Journal (Exhibit R), these “leases” are unlike any other space rental lease available, with multiple ways that the gas companies (the lessees) may indefinitely extend the lease against the homeowner’s (the lessor’s) wishes. If the experience of landowners in New York parallels the experience of landowners in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and other states, if fracking is allowed in New York many landowners will find that they have signed over control of their land indefinitely to people who will not care for it in the way that the landowners wish. The level of deception, misleading information, and permanence of the ramifications is an unfortunate parallel of the theft of land by illegal treaties from my clients, the Onondaga, and the subsequent pollution of that land, denying them forever the uses that they once made of the territory.
USE THE GOOD MIND
The Onondaga Nation asks that the DEC joins with them in using the Good Mind to carefully consider what actions will best serve future generations. To open the door to this industry puts all future generations at risk. The Onondaga Nation asks that the DEC have the courage to do the right thing, to withdraw the SGEIS and ban hydrofracking throughout NY State.
LACK OF CONSULTATION
The Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force met with the NYSDEC in Albany in October of 2009, prior to the comment deadline on the first draft of the SGEIS. Since then, there have been no further meetings or meaningful consultation by the DEC on this subject. As noted previously, there is no indication that the comments submitted on the 2009 draft SGEIS were even considered by the DEC. The NYSDEC Policy CP-42 / Contact, Cooperation, and Consultation With Indian Nations, issued by Commissioner Grannis in 2009 states that “consultation is required for any Department decision or action which could foreseeably have Indian Nation implications,” which hydrofracking and widespread shale gas drilling clearly does, as enumerated in the above comments. We await your response to these concerns.
Joseph J. Heath
cc: Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs
Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force
Andrew Cuomo, NYS Governor
Joe Martens, NYSDEC Commissioner
Ken Lynch, Region 7 Regional Director
Jeff Gregg, DEC
Attachments:Onondaga Nation Comments on the 2011 Hydrofracking SGEIS
A. Haudenosaunee Statement on Hydrofracking
B. Prior Comments on the SGEIS (2009)
C. Article: Residents Fault DEC Over Claims of Gas Drilling Impact on Water Wells
D. NOON Interview with Bruce Ross
E. 4/19/2011 article: PA: Marcellus wastewater shouldn’t go to treatment plants.
F. USGS FAQ – Earthquakes and Injection Wells
G. Scientific American article – Ohio Earthquake Likely Caused by Fracking Wastewater
H. From the Trenches article: Does the Natural Gas Boom Endanger Archaeology?
I. NYAC letter related to the SGEIS
J. Statement on Human Remains
Correspondence between DEC and Joe Heath re: Protections for Drinking Watershed
L. Map of Gas Leases within 1 Mile of Onondaga Nation
M. Paul Rubin: Natural Gas Drilling & Aquifer Protection
N. Osborne et al. (2011) Methane Contamination of Drinking Water Accompanying Gas-Well Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing
O. 2001 Internal DEC Memo re: Earthquakes and deep well injection
P. Associated Press: Wyoming is beset by a big-city problem: Smog (3/9/2011)
Q. Robert Kohut: Ozone Levels a Concern if Gas Drilling Begins Here
R. Elizabeth N. Radow: Homeowners and Gas Drilling Leases: Boon or Bust?