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3-3-11 Letter to Governor Cuomo

March 3, 2011

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo:

You recently received a coalition letter requesting you to expand the scope of your Department of Environmental Conservation’s Marcellus Shale draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement in order to fulfill the requirements of Executive Order No. 41. As you know, the draft SGEIS has received intense criticism, notably from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

More than 3,000 elected officials, business owners, farmers, environmental and civic groups, students, religious leaders and citizens are signatories to that 1/5/11 letter. See:

To date, you have not acted upon the letter’s requests. Moreover, your nominee for DEC Commissioner, Joseph Martens, repeatedly testified in Legislative hearings that he intends to finish reviewing comments on the draft SGEIS and release a revised draft on or about June 1st.

With all respect, I believe that plan is inadequate and unacceptable. The draft SGEIS excludes critical issues that must be addressed before New York’s de facto moratorium on Marcellus Shale horizontal hydrofracturing can be lifted, notably how to manage massive volumes of contaminated wastewater. A great deal of detailed information also has come to light since the SGEIS proceeding began more than two years ago. It is imperative to expand its scope.

I write today to provide some previously unreleased documents that strongly support my request.

As you will see from Attachment A (8/9/09 HQ Marcellus Shale PowerPoint Presentation), the highest levels of authority at the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were aware in August 2009 that 850,000 residents could not drink water drawn from the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh during the fall of 2008 due to high Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) associated with natural gas wastewater discharged into municipal treatment plants that were not equipped to remove the contaminants. This was an unprecedented drinking water crisis in American history.

As you will see from Attachment B (EPA Region 2 Radiation and Indoor Air Branch, November 09, 2009 Memorandum), gas drilling wastewater contains radionucleotides. EPA Region 2 states: “elevated radionucleotide concentrations …need to be handled, managed and disposed of appropriately to avoid unnecessary exposure to workers, the public and the environment.” EPA further states: “A program must be implemented to properly manage the elevated radionucleotide concentrations in the brine to protect the worker health, public health and the environment.”

During the last year, more than 20 million gallons of gas drilling wastewater have been discharged into publicly owned treatment plants in New York State that are not designed, constructed or maintained to remove TDS, radionucleotides or other toxic constituents. To date, no programs have been established to safeguard workers, public health and the environment from brine hazards.

As you will see from Attachment C (EPA Region 3 Redline suggestions for Technical Comments Section), EPA Region 3 states that it “…recommends against approving of disposal of flowback water through conventional wastewater treatment until a review of chemical makeup of flowback and New York State ambient water quality standards demonstrates the establishment of water quality criteria necessary to developing protective numeric SPDES [State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] permit limits for all pollutants of concern not substantially removed by conventional treatment.”

EPA also states: “…regarding public and private treatment facilities… such facilities may need to install tertiary treatment (e.g. reverse osmosis or evaporation/crystallization) that generate a separate waste stream which must be disposed.”

As you will see from Attachment D (Regional Administrator Briefing, Preliminary Discussion of NYS DEC Marcellus Shale draft SGEIS, December 4, 2009), EPA states “Region 2 is concerned about the potential for widespread, intensive gas drilling activities in the New York City watershed.” EPA also states, “Despite the important mitigation measures already proposed by NYSDEC in the draft SGEIS, we have serious reservations about whether intensive gas drilling is consistent with the vision of long-term maintenance of a high quality unfiltered water supply. We agree with the sentiments recently expressed by Acting Commissioner Steven Lawitts of the NYCDEP [New York City Department of Environmental Protection], who noted that the New York City watersheds deserve State protection, and that a precautionary approach is appropriate at this time.”

EPA adds “To address this concern Region 2 recommends a moratorium on drilling in the New York City watershed so that NYSDEC may gain experience with regulating high volume hydraulic fracturing activities in less sensitive areas. If experience demonstrates that drilling can occur without adverse impacts, then the moratorium could be replaced with a phased permitting plan which would limit the intensity of drilling activity (emphasis added).”

As you will see from Attachment E (EPA 12/30/2009, dSGEIS Comments, Bureau of Oil and Gas Regulation, NYSDEC Division of Mineral Resources), EPA Region 2’s comments to DEC regarding the draft SGEIS fail to include the moratorium proposal as well as some of the other technical recommendations discussed herein.

I have provided various other documents for your review. They include:

Pennsylvania State government orders that dramatically reduced permissible amounts of natural gas drilling wastewater accepted by a total of nine municipal treatment plants in Pennsylvania during the course of the Autumn 2008 Monongahela River drinking water crisis;

A Study conducted by Pennsylvania environmental authorities that identified “salt-loving diatoms” in a tributary to the Monongahela River that received municipal wastewater discharges involving gas drilling wastewater;

Monitoring results for selected samples of gas drilling wastewater provided to the Johnstown, PA Regional Sewage System.

Monitoring data for gas drilling wastewater generated at the Davis Well in Marshall County, WV that identify benzene, a known human cancer-causing agent (up to 1,760 parts per billion (ppb)), toluene (up to 2,040 ppb) and Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (Diesel Range) (up to 72,600 ppb).


On 8/5/10, you pledged that New York’s “…existing watersheds are sacrosanct.” You also promised that you “…would not support any drilling that would threaten the State’s major sources of drinking water.”

With those policies in mind, I respectfully request that you heed EPA’s observation that “…a greater emphasis needs to be placed on the potential health impacts that may be associated with gas drilling and hydrofracturing. EPA suggest that the New York State Department of Health (DOH) join NYSDEC as a co-lead on the SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act] document. Not only does DOH have expertise to offer on health impacts, but it was delegated primary enforcement responsibility (primacy) of the Safe Drinking Water Act by EPA. This is of direct interest to EPA as we are responsible for overseeing DOH’s implementation and enforcement of the drinking water program.”

Given your pledge to safeguard New York’s drinking water from gas drilling threats, I request you to send the draft SGEIS “back to drawing board” and allow public comment regarding how its scope can be expanded in compliance with Executive Order No. 41. I also request you to implement the other provisions of the 1/5/11 coalition letter without further delay.

I trust you will find my requests self-explanatory, but please do not hesitate to contact me if I can answer any questions or otherwise assist you. I am willing to meet at your convenience.

Thank you for your public service.

Best regards,

Walter Hang
215 North Cayuga Street
Ithaca, NY 14850

Cc: Honorable Michael Bloomberg
Honorable Sheldon Silver
Honorable Barbara Lifton
Honorable James Gennaro
Honorable Christine C. Quinn
Honorable Lisa Jackson
Honorable Judith Enck
Honorable Maurice Hinchey
Signatories to the 1/5/11 Coalition Letter to Andrew M. Cuomo