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DEC Regulation Accusations

09/26/12

There are allegations that the State Department of Environmental Conservation has breached the public trust.

Those harsh words come from the President of the environmental database firm in Ithaca called Toxics Targeting. Walter Hang says an extensive review of the DEC Mineral Resources annual reports shows that the agency has failed to protect the environment and people from some past gas drilling. Hang says the DEC has allowed improper gas and oil regulation for decades. Allegations include the DEC failing to do enough to protect water supplies and allowing billions of gallons of contaminated production brine to be put in lagoons, pits, streams and on roads without treating it first to remove chemicals. Hang also says that decades ago the DEC identified thousands of unplugged gas wells, but has allowed them to remain.

Hang says the agency's actions prove that its policies that the fracking SGEIS is based on are inadequate. "What we're basically saying today is, it isn't enough to have good regulations based on science, you have to also enforce those regulations. There's no dispute that DEC has failed to do that."

Hang, Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan and other environmental advocates are asking Governor Andrew Cuomo to withdraw the SGEIS based on this information. You can see Hang's findings at toxicstargeting.com.

In response, the DEC says it takes all complaints of water contamination seriously and works with the state Health Department to make sure residents have safe drinking water. The DEC also says the revised SGEIS includes multiple safeguards to protect drinking water supplies. A spokeswoman adds that the agency has brine guidelines that are followed. And, that the SGEIS would not allow the use of Marcellus Shale production brine for road spreading until sufficient data is available to evaluate potential impacts. Lastly, the DEC says it will continue to work to plug abandoned wells. Under the SGEIS, drillers would be required to plug old wells if they are within one mile of a fracking operation.