Loophole in NY Water Withdrawal Bill Gives Fracking Industry Unlimited Rights
Senate Bill Puts Public Water Into Private Hands
06.13.2011– WATKINS GLEN, NY – A loophole contained in a landmark water withdrawal bill now under consideration in the New York Senate will allow the fracking industry to take more than 100,000 gallons of water per day from state rivers, lakes and ponds free of charge with no environmental oversight or permit.
Mainstream environmental groups have championed the water withdrawal bill (S3798) as “pro-environment.” But numerous grassroots environmental organizations oppose the measure because it gives free access to millions of gallons of clean, fresh drinking water to the oil and gas industry for use in hydrofracking for methane gas and could lead to widespread contamination of groundwater resources.
Companion water withdrawal legislation proposed in Canada three years raised similar concerns. The Polaris Institute, an Ottawa-based organization of social activists, said at the time, “What we are witnessing in Ontario is the quiet restructuring of water resource management. This includes….defining water in ways that give private interests the legal right to exploit it.”
The Canadian bill, part of the Great Lakes Compact by the governors of Great Lakes states and the premiers of Ontario and Quebec, limited corporations to withdrawing just 50,000 gallons of water per day before getting a required permit. And it imposed fees for obtaining the permit. New York’s version of the Compact (S3798) doubles the amount of water that corporations are allowed to extract with no permit, and imposes no fees.
But the bill contains loopholes that allow the fracking industry to escape even those limits.
“We estimate that if the hydrofracking industry were to segment their water delivery needs among various independent water haulers, the 100,000 gallon loophole would provide more than enough to fulfill their water needs for fracking, without the need for any permit,” said Kevin Bunger, a member of the Coalition to Protect New York, one of the grassroots groups opposed to the water withdrawal bill.
CPNY and other groups have filed a request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law for documents and information relating to closed-door meetings that resulted in the controversial water withdrawal bill. The legislation has had no public hearings and received no input from citizens and small business owners who will be directly affected by this landmark piece of legislation.
“We don’t understand why this bill was written in the first place,” said CPNY Spokesman Jack Ossont. “But we particularly don’t understand where the threshold limit came from that allows the oil and gas industry to take 100,000 gallons a day of our water for free, and with no real oversight.”
“Apparently environmentalists in Canada recognized what our own elected officials and mainstream environmental groups here in the US fail to see,” said Joe Hoff, Chairman of Keuka Citizens Against Hydrofracking . “This water withdrawal compact is masquerading as a pro-environment piece of legislation when it, in fact, gives the fracking industry, the water bottling industry and the chemical industry near total control over the public’s drinking water.”
As in Canada, opponents in New York presented strong legal arguments by water rights experts that the bill, which will determine water rights for small and large users for decades to come, will have unintended consequences at a time when oil and gas companies are targeting New York State for drilling for methane gas by hydrofracking. Fracking requires vast amounts of water. However, under the proposal being considered by the Senate, these oil and gas corporations will be able to extract billions of gallons of water from New York lakes, rivers and ponds free of charge.
The opponents will continue to urge its members to contact their local senators and urge them to open the process up and hold public hearings.
The Time is Now: “4220 Or Fight!”
(Sen. Avella re Ban bill, May 2nd Ban Rally)
A Call to Action
Dear Friends, June 11, 2011
By now, we all know what the problems are with shale gas methane mining, and polls indicate that the majority of New Yorkers, when they hear the truth about hydro-fracking, are in favor of an outright ban. Thankfully, an unequivocal solution has been given to us by a courageous Senator who is responsive to the will of the people: Tony Avella has introduced his fracking ban bill #S4220. Tony says, “4220 or fight!” and we agree. It’s time for grassroots groups and the people of New York to declare what WE WANT, what’s best for us (who stand in harm’s way) and to stop allowing entrenched Albany insiders or polluter-friendly politicians to tell us what is, or is not possible.
The only certain way to ensure New York’s public health and safety, and to protect our precious water, air, land and forests from the ravages of massive industrialization and contamination through hydro-fracking, is to ban this practice. We only have a few days left in this legislative session to communicate our unity behind a fracking ban.
Assemblyman Colton has introduced a companion to Avella’s ban bill in the Assembly #: A7218. Congratulations and thanks go to Senator Avella, Assembly Member Colton, and the co-sponsors of these bills for standing up to the gas industry to protect the people of New York!
Three things to do:
1. Support the Avella Ban: Attend a press conference in the Legislative Office Building in Albany on Monday, June 13th at 11:30am in the LCA Room. The LCA Press Room is located on the third floor of the Capitol between the Senate and Assembly chambers.
2. On Monday, please contact your legislators in the New York State Senate: Tell them WE WANT A BAN NOW! URGE them to SUPPORT Senator Avella’s ban bill #: S4220. Also, contact your Assembly members and ask them to co-sponsor and vote for Assemblyman Colton’s bill #: A7218. Let them know we stand with Senator Avella and Assemblyman Colton and urge their support for their bills.
Also, contact the leadership of environmental organizations and ask them to support this bill with action alerts to their members as well.
3. Encourage your group to sign on to a press release demanding passage of the Avella and Colton Ban bills. Please send your group names to: Jack Ossont or Kate Bartholomew, Coalition to Protect New York
On Saturday, June 25, citizens across the region will unite against drilling. In Ithaca, the Epic Event will bring together top speakers and musicians. In Manhattan, New Yorkers will rally, calling on Governor Cuomo to support a permanent ban on fracking. Join us at these and other local events or post your own action:
THANK YOU for taking action,
Coalition to Protect New York (CPNY)
Call to Action Committee
Safe Water Movement
New York Climate Action Group
CDOG / un-naturalgas.org