Join the Campaign to “Kill the Drill” and Keep NYC’s Drinking Water Free of Toxic Chemicals
Last month, Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon vowed that his company will not drill for natural gas in New York City's upstate watershed. This may seem like a victory for the "Kill the Drill" campaign, but it's only a partial one: In five years' time, Chesapeake's leases in the watershed will expire, and even before then there is no guarantee that McClendon will remain the head of the company. That's why I am calling on the State Department of Environmental Conservation to implement a complete and permanent ban on hydrofracture drilling in the Catskill / Delaware watershed.
As McClendon himself stated, "How could any one well be so profitable that it would be worth damaging the New York City water system?" Now the State environmental agency finds itself in the uncomfortable position of lagging behind the industry it regulates in protecting the City's drinking water.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the drilling technique known as "hydraulic fracturing," it is already being used in at least nine states to extract great quantities of natural gas from underground formations. By fracturing the shale with the aid of chemically-treated water pumped deep into the ground, natural gas can be captured in a commercially viable way.
Experts estimate that New York State's natural gas reserves may be large enough to meet national demand for a period of 20 years. The economic payoff for upstate New York's recession-strapped families and municipal governments would be substantial.
For a nation needing to diversify its energy resources, hydrofracture drilling sounds on the surface like a positive thing. However, the potential environmental impact could be devastating. One need only to look across the New York border to Dimock, Pennsylvania, where hydraulic fracturing is underway. Families there turn on their faucets to find water that separates into sludge, sediment, brown liquid and bubbles. This is exactly what could happen to New York City's unfiltered drinking water supply if drilling is permitted, leading to a serious public health crisis.
So why doesn't the State just build a filtration system to safeguard the City's water supply? The cost. It's estimated to be in excess of $10 billion, and that figure doesn't even take into account the cost of ongoing operation and maintenance of the filtration system, which is expected to cost about $1 million per day.
The stakes are too high to rely on buffer zones and special permits, such as the State proposed in draft regulations at the end of September. Those amount to half measures. We are in the middle of a 90-day public comment period where citizens will get to voice their concern about drilling in the Marcellus Shale, an underground formation stretching across the southern tier of New York State.
Other states are looking to New York to set the environmental agenda on this issue. It's time for the State environmental agency to "Kill the Drill."
We urge you to take immediate action by joining our letter-writing campaign and Facebook group. For anyone in the New York City area on November 10th, we are holding a rally and press conference ahead of the 6:30 p.m. DEC hearing on the proposed drilling. This will be the only opportunity that New York City residents will have to make their voices heard on the issue. For more information, go to www.mbpo.org/killthedrill.
Scott M. Stringer is the Manhattan Borough President.