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
Horizontally drilled, high-volume hydrofracturing (HD/HVHF) in shales has been under de facto moratorium since 2008, when the DEC was ordered to take testimony on the impacts of that proposed technology. Until the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) is produced (probably late spring 2011) that de facto moratorium is already in place.
The current moratorium legislation extends that coverage, by law, to vertically-drilled, low-volume fracturing in shales.
Where things stand:
What the legislation does
suspends until May 15, the issuance of new permits for the drilling of a well which utilizes the practice of hydraulic fracturing in low permeability natural gas reservoirs, such as the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.
applies to nine (9) wells in the whole state for which permit applications have already been filed, and that aren’t covered by the SGEIS de facto moratorium.
What the legislation does not do
does not prevent drilling of wells already permitted, or which will be permitted before the promulgation of the law following the governor’s signature, if it is forthcoming – seven (7) so far.
does not prevent new permit applications from being filed with the DEC, nor prevent the DEC from processing those and existing applications.
does not suspend the issuance of permits in non-shale formations – sandstones and limestones – which have constituted the bulk of the well drilling to date.
does not prevent the refracking of already-drilled wells.
See more at: http://un-naturalgas.org/CDOGe-mail2010-12-03.htm
From Clearville Times, who blogs at http://clearville.wordpress.com/
Clearville, PA like DISH, Texas: “pretty much in the middle of nowhere, which from the gas storage owner’s point of view, made it the perfect place”
Clearville had five production wells drilled by PGE gas drilling company, which produced about two years in the Oriskany formation. Wells suddenly stopped production on the same day and were sold to a gas storage company from somewhere in Texas, known as Spectra Energy or maybe known as a “Spin off of Duke Energy?” from a gas storage operator’s point of view, Clearville, PA made it the perfect place” known as the ” Steckman Ridge Gas Storage Project.”
In Pennsylvania, gas is stored in the Oriskany formation, the source rock for the Oriskany is the Marcellus Shale.
In the middle of nowhere, there seems to be a trend for gas storage fields in the Oriskany formation located near the Marcellus Shale. There is a gas storage field located a few miles down the road from the Steckman Ridge’s underground gas storage field known as the Columbia Gas Storage field, in Artemas, PA. Columbia gas storage field is also located in the middle of nowhere but has been the perfect place since the early 1940′s . Columbia gas has been storing gas in the Oriskany formation where the Marcellus Shale is the source rock.
There is a big difference, between then and now’s, when it comes to gas storage project acquisitions, at least up until 2005. Columbia Gas Storage got off to an easier start in the 1940′s. At that period in time, most all gas production leases gave away gas storage rights in gas production leases.
Landowners over the years with the advent of the internet, became more savvy and placed no gas storage clauses in their gas production leases. Soon these gas leases became known as obstacles in the market place which needed a removal tool. Someone, somewhere, came up with the perfect legal tool to remove these obstacles in the market place for gas storage projects.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney used legal legislative laws as the best use obstacle removal tool in EPACT of 2005. At that time, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney likely knew a little about the gas market, heard about obstacles in the market place, and knew a solution was needed for the problem. Minds of genius noted for acquisitions developed and signed a law which classified depleted gas wells which can be taken legally for underground gas storage projects because they are now considered public utilities. This law is broad and can take land which has no gas leases. This law will take any land and give it to a private company for profit once they eye your land as the perfect place for a federally backed underground gas storage field.
Clearville, PA was eyed as the perfect place. Landowners watched Halliburton and Schlumberger legally use exempted fracking chemicals from the SDWA. They watched as horizontal gas storage wells were drilled into the Oriskany sandstone formation. This was a federally backed gas storage project with all the amenities.
Remember: “There is no way to save your land from the laws of a federally backed gas storage project. If someone, somewhere, spots your land as the perfect place, you can kiss it goodbye.”
Clearville, PA; the Oriskany formation; the Marcellus Shale is the Oriskany source rock; in the middle of nowhere; all goes somewhere; from a gas storage operator’s point of view; Clearville was another perfect place.
Anne Marie Garti writes:
The FRAC Act would remove the hydrofracking exemption to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), but the proposed bill will not protect most of the land area of the US because many aquifers, especially in the northeast, do not flow into a PUBLIC water supply of 25 + users, and whether they would be capable of supplying municipal water in the future is open to interpretation. The required flow rate is not defined anyplace, and needs to be so that there is a uniform standard across the US.
Specifically, the Underground Injection Control (UIC) section of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) needs to include a definition, or standard, of the following phrase: “sufficient quantity of ground water to supply a public water system”
“Sufficient” needs to be defined in the FRAC Act so that the flow rate of individual homeowner’s water well or spring is covered. It should be a federal standard, not open to different interpretations by Courts in every region of the EPA. The Atlanta or Georgia region of EPA uses a 1 gallon per minute flow rate.
Some people have suggested that one gallon per minute may be a sufficient flow rate for water wells, but I’m not sure if that’s true for springs. As water resources diminish as a result of climate change, a much lower standard might be reasonable. Even a trickle of clean water could keep you alive in the future, and those trickles, when combined, add up to rivers in some places.
I am not proposing that the entire SDWA be amended to include the springs and wells of homeowners. The required change in language should only apply to the UIC section of the SDWA.
Some background information from the EPA:
“The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was originally passed by Congress in 1974 to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply. The law was amended in 1986 and 1996 and requires many actions to protect drinking water and its sources: rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and ground water wells. (SDWA does not regulate private wells which serve fewer than 25 individuals.) ”
The UIC (Underground Injection Control) program includes 5 classes of protection:
Here’s more specific information:
And this is the specific area that needs adjusting:
Quote from the EPA:
What is a USDW?
An underground source of drinking water (USDW) is an aquifer or a part of an aquifer that is currently used as a drinking water source or may be needed as a drinking water source in the future. Specifically, a USDW:
The Kerry, Graham and Lieberman climate bill has become so compromised it’s rotten. Let Congress know that you are deeply concerned about climate change, and therefore support a vote AGAINST this bill. Tell them a much, much stronger climate bill is absolutely necessary!
When the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act last year, many (including NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen) called the bill “worse than nothing,” and found themselves, sadly, opposing climate legislation. Why?? Because the bill failed to rise to the challenge, offered absurdly weak targets, provided ludicrous quantities of corporate handouts to polluters, funded a slew of dirty false solutions (carbon capture and sequestration, biomass burning, nuclear, etc). Overall, it sought to maintain business as usual, rather than putting the nation on the path to avoid catastrophic warming.
Many powerful industry and government interests view climate change not as a serious problem to be resolved by all means possible, but rather as an opportunity to maintain and enhance profits. They would seek to build more polluting incinerators, continue mountaintop removal and coal burning, expand industrial agriculture, drill our coastlines, mine uranium and build more nuclear reactors, leaving us to cope with more cancer, asthma and other health problems, and an altogether questionable future for our children.
When Senators Kerry & Boxer introduced a companion bill largely mirroring “worse than nothing,” it was entirely rejected by some Senators, who, unbelievably, fail to recognize climate change as a problem worth addressing, and are entirely beholden to their fossil fuel and other industry supporters. Kerry went back to the drawing board, this time inviting the participation of industry and the climate change deniers who have made it clear that in order to win the needed 60 votes, they would require fulfillment of their “wishlist.” We are now faced with a bill written to fulfill the wishes of the worst polluters and guaranteed to be FAR worse than nothing.
The Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill would even take away EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act — our one proven tool for regulating air pollution, which industry fears because it will be more effective than the carbon trading schemes in this legislation. The Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill would even invalidate any state and local-level laws that are stronger than the weak policies in their bill!
Just because this is a so-called “climate bill” doesn’t mean it is a good bill! Tell your senator and representatives to vote AGAINST this rotten bill because it fails on every count. Demand a much, much stronger climate bill that will embrace targets that meet the mandates of climate science, put an end to dirty energy, restore ecosystems, protect our health and fulfill our obligations to the international community.
For more information, and to sign the petition, visit