NYS Toxic targeting.com

Posted November 17, 2010                       Now that the election season has ended.......Send letters with you concerns / wishes to the Political leaders on New Your State....


Thanks for all your help during the last year/Keep slugging
Walter Hang <walter@toxicstargeting.com>
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It is hard for me to believe, but Toxics Targeting began its Marcellus Shale anti-fracking campaign almost a year ago to the very day.  I write to thank everyone who has helped make our effort a success so far. 
I cannot tell you how much your assistance is appreciated.  

Please allow me to provide an update.  We have made a great deal of progress, but have much more heavy lifting to do.  Keep your fingers crossed. 

The Good

Above all, we have collectively played a critical role in holding off Marcellus Shale horizontal hydrofracking (MS HH) in New York State for longer than anyone would have thought possible.
That is a stupendous achievement.  Many thanks and congratulations to everyone who helped us get this far.  See: http://www.toxicstargeting.com/MarcellusShale

The de facto MS HH moratorium has been rock-solid.  Not one MS HH drilling permit has been issued in New York
When the draft SGEIS was proposed on 9/30/2009, the natural gas industry predicted MS HH would begin last March. 

Using New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and County Health Department data, Toxics Targeting documented hundreds of natural gas fires, explosions, massive uncontrolled gas drilling wastewater releases, polluted water wells and impacted residential homes. 

Those findings undercut DEC's assertion that its existing 1992 GEIS (Generic Environmental Impact Statement) regulations were entirely adequate.  It is now beyond dispute that New York has thousands of unresolved oil and gas drilling problems as well as a fundamentally flawed gas drilling regulatory system. 

Our coalition letter to withdraw the draft Supplemental GEIS has more than 10,000 signatories and is a main line of defense against MS HH. 
Many of the specific concerns we spelled out were later echoed by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency

Signatories include citizens, major elected officials, including key Congressional and Assembly Reps, mayors and County Legislators throughout the Marcellus Shale formation, farmers, business owners, local, state and national environmental groups as well as important individuals and institutions in New York City

Our work has received incredible local, statewide, regional, national and international media attention, including coverage in China, India, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Germany, Norway, France and Israel.  That coverage has translated into substantial political clout.

We have won some amazing local battles, notably in Pulteney, NY, where we helped block a deep well injection proposal, and Binghamton, NY, the epicenter of potential MS HH activities, where we blocked a $15.9 million Broome County mineral rights leasing deal in July.  Hundreds of activists are in full cry to kill a revised leasing proposal.

Perhaps most importantly, we have made many friends and punished our enemies.  We have been on an incredible roll.   May it continue with your strong support. 

The Bad

The bottom line is that we have yet to withdraw the draft SGEIS. We have generated intense pressure on Governor Paterson, Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo, DEC, EPA and other key players, but we have not killed the draft.  We need to make a quantum jump in political pressure.

We were involved in four electoral races with a strong focus on hydrofracking.  Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton won big after being a leader on anti-fracking and facing a tough Tea Party opponent. Congressman Maurice Hinchey won a tight race in a district that spans a key portion of the Marcellus Shale formation.  He has become a lightning rod for pro-gas advocates and was fortunate to prevail. 

Pam Mackesey won more than 88% of the vote in her home of Ithaca and 74% of the vote in Tompkins County, but could not extend her strong support to other counties that make up the 53rd State Senate District

Most regrettably, Congressman Michael Arcuri went down to defeat in a very tough fight where hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on negative ads attacking him.

We helped mobilize activists for every facet of these races.  They attended rallies and debates, organized events, knocked on thousands of doors, planted lawn signs, recorded radio ads, provided generous financial support, phone-banked, generated intense press coverage and voted on election day.  Arcuri and Hinchey both signed our coalition letter down the home stretch.  I only wish we could have done more.

Perhaps most importantly, we bird-dogged Andrew Cuomo hither and yon in Central New York.  He knows what we want and has taken a great deal of heat. Now we will see what we can get out of him.

The Ugly

After hounding DEC Commissioner Grannis for nearly a year to withdraw the draft SGEIS, he was fired by the Governor for opposing across the board cuts at his agency.  The memo that got him the boot reveals DEC is in no way prepared to regulate MS HH in New York State:

“DEC is in the weakest position that it has been in since it was created 40 years ago.  The staffing and funding losses over the past 2.5 years, combined with increased legislative mandates from the federal government and State Legislature, have created the perfect management storm.  Many of our programs are hanging by a thread.  The public would be shocked to learn how thin we are in many areas.”

"This combination of severe resource limitations and increased responsibilities has had a dramatic impact - fundamentally compromising the Department's responsibilities to preserve the state's environment, protect human health and meet its obligations to the public.  In every quarter, we have had to reduce essential services provided by DEC.  We are now responding to and cleaning-up fewer petroleum spills.  Our inspections and enforcement activities in all  programs have dwindled - e.g. hazardous waste, air emissions, wastewater discharges ...mining and drilling safety."

See: http://www.toxicstargeting.com/sites/default/files/dec_dobletter_Grannis2010-HL.pdf

Please note that our coalition letter addresses this issue. See #4 DEC Regulatory Staffing: "DEC is woefully understaffed for managing existing natural gas drilling activities. Prior to permitting additional natural gas drilling activities, fees should be increased to make sure DEC has the requisite staff to manage its regulatory responsibilities... We also oppose further budget cuts to DEC's pollution control programs."

Commissioner Grannis has been replaced by Peter Iwanowicz, Governor Paterson's Assistant Secretary for the Environment.  To date, he has been insufficiently responsive to our concerns.

Many environmental groups and anti-fracking activists continue to chase a mini-moratorium in New York on hydrofracking permits until 5/15/11, only six months from now.  The State Senate passed the bill in August, but the Assembly has yet to take up the measure.  I am not working on this issue, but I believe such a short-term delay would be a Pyrrhic victory that makes no sense. 

It would give elected officials political cover for doing nothing to resolve DEC's fundamental regulatory problems. 

It might allow Governor Paterson to rehabilitate his shockingly bad environmental image after firing Commissioner Grannis

Most importantly, I am extremely concerned that enacting a mini-moratorium would help Governor-Elect Cuomo dodge this issue for most of his first legislation session and budget negotiation. 

With any luck, the bill will not come up before the end of the year.

The Future

espite all the ups and downs in the last year, thousands of activists continue to slug it out, day in, day out, at the grassroots level.  There has been no anti-fracking silver bullet, but we are moving ahead in fits and starts.  We have come a mighty long way.  

Against that background, year two of our effort has begun.  I believe some good things are looming that should prove pleasing to us all. 

Between now and the end of the Paterson administration, we must hammer our lame-duck Governor and Governor-elect Cuomo to withdraw the woefully inadequate
draft SGEIS.  DEC must start the process over again with a revised scope of work.  With any luck, that process would take a decade to complete.

Cuomo also must be pushed to fund the DEC adequately. 

EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck must lean hard on Paterson, Cuomo and DEC to achieve those two goals.

Call, email and pester the powers that be:

518-474-8390 (o)

212-209-3314 (o) - Campaign

212-637-5000 (o)

Acting-DEC Commissioner Peter Iwanowicz

Thanks, again, for all your generous help.  See you on the road.


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