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Broome County Public Hearing Statement

Statement of Walter Hang
President of Toxics Targeting, Inc.
Regarding Proposed Leasing of Broome County Properties
For Natural Gas Extraction.
Broome County Legislature Public Hearing
July 19, 2010

Greetings. My name is Walter Hang. I am the President of Toxics Targeting, Inc., an environmental database firm based in Ithaca, NY. Toxics Targeting has compiled extensive local, state and federal government information for more than 550,000 known and potential toxic sites in New York. We have attributed that information to spatial locations in every county of the state. We have mapped and profiled more than 6,400 sites in Broome County, including landfills, Brownfields, leaking tanks and spills, permitted pollution discharges and hazardous waste generators.

I recently learned that Broome County has proposed to lease more than 170 public properties for natural gas extraction. My colleagues obtained a list of those properties and made a map of their locations. They also mapped selected “sensitive receptors” on and as well as near some of those parcels, including schools, parks, places of worship, public water supply wells, regulated freshwater wetlands and residential homes.

Toxics Targeting is pleased to provide our detailed maps for public review. They are posted at:

As you will see, parcels proposed for natural gas leasing include Senior Citizen Centers, parkland, watersheds, a playground, a mobile home, an airport and a solid waste landfill. Sensitive receptors near those parcels include schools, churches, public water supply wells, regulated freshwater wetlands and thousands of residential homes. All of these issues are of extreme concern.

It is my understanding that Broome County proposed that no drilling be allowed on certain parcels and that all horizontal hydrofracturing extraction activities comply with the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is in the process of adopting. Until an SGEIS is adopted, there is a de facto moratorium on horizontal hydrofracturing in New York’s Marcellus Shale formation.

Toxics Targeting conducted a review of hundreds of spills reportedly associated with natural gas activities in New York. That information was obtained from DEC as well as Health Departments in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. We identified fires, explosions, massive uncontrolled releases, contaminated water supply wells and home evacuations. Many of these problems were never cleaned up in compliance with New York State remediation requirements.

For example, on November 20, 1998, Dale Fox was drilling an extraction well on Bixby Hill Road in Freedom, NY. As you will see from the attached copy of a DEC spill profile for the incident, an uncontrolled release of natural gas occurred. The gas migrated through a “fault in shale, affected properties appx 1 & ½ miles away sw on Weaver Road…. 12 families evacuated. Gas in Lewis’s basement (built on shale). Farmers (sic) well in barn 11708 Weaver Road (Steve Woldszyn) vented to outside. Gas coming up thou (sic) ground in Lewis’s Yard…”

Given the long-standing shortcomings of DEC’s existing regulation of natural gas extraction activities, I drafted a coalition letter to Governor Paterson requesting that he withdraw the draft SGEIS in order to address its inadequacies. That letter now has nearly 10,000 signatories, including hundreds of elected officials, business owners, environmental groups and individuals.

Moreover, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency also identified numerous shortcomings in DEC’s draft SGEIS. In the attached 12/30/09 letter, EPA Region 2 wrote:

“…greater emphasis needs to be placed on the potential health impacts that may be associated with gas drilling and hydrofracturing. EPA suggests that New York State Department of Health (DOH) join NYSDEC as a co-lead on the SEQRA document.

“While protecting the New York City watershed is important because of the millions of New Yorkers who rely on this drinking water supply, we also have concerns about water quality impacts throughout the state. Just because fewer people rely on upstate water sources does not imply that these supplies are not also worthy of protection.

“…we have concerns regarding potential impacts to human health and the environment that we believe warrant further scientific and regulatory analysis. Of particular concern to EPA are issues involving water supply, water quality, wastewater treatment operations, local and regional air quality, management of naturally occurring radioactive materials disturbed during drilling, cumulative environmental impacts, and the New York City watershed. EPA recommends that these concerns be addressed and essential environmental protection measures established prior to the completion of the SEQRA process.”

For all these reasons, I urge Broome County not to proceed with leasing its public property for natural gas extraction until a detailed “sensitive receptor” survey has been conducted and all the inadequacies of the draft SGEIS have been resolved. Absent comprehensive environmental assessment and rigorous regulatory safeguards, Broome County’s environment and citizens cannot be afforded adequate protection from natural gas drilling activities.

Finally, I recently wrote respectfully to County Executive Fiala to bring to her attention contamination problems at both the county airport and solid waste landfill that reportedly do not meet clean up standards. See attached. Broome County already has far more toxic pollution hazards than it can cope with. It must be an essential public policy to avoid additional environmental hazards.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you about my concerns.