Anne Marie Garti
[address removed for public posting]
December 2, 2008
Bureau of Oil & Gas Regulation
NYSDEC Division of Mineral Resources
625 Broadway, Third Floor
Albany, NY 12233-6500
To whom it concerns:
Please consider these comments on the draft scope of work for a supplement to the generic
environmental impact statement on the oil, gas, and solution mining regulatory program.
The proposed supplement to the 1988 and 1992 draft and final GEIS is to address impacts
of horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale and
other low permeability gas reservoirs.
Section §617.8 of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) outlines the steps
required for the scoping process. The DEC, which is acting as the lead agency, has not
complied with the rules that it itself is supposed to enforce. Specifically, the requirements
found in sections §617.8 (b), §617.8 (f) (3), and §617.8 (f) (4), have not been followed.
“The extent and quality of information, … existing information, and required new
information, including the required methodology(ies) for obtaining new information; … an
initial identification of mitigation measures” are all missing from the document.
I request that a new draft scope of work be prepared and distributed, and any person or
entity that wishes to alter their testimony, or submit new testimony, be allowed to do so.
Also, after reading the 1988 and 1992 draft and final GEIS, I find the current draft scope of
work to be filled with many unwarranted and unsubstantiated assumptions.
Assumption # 1
The most pervasive assumption is that a supplement to a twenty-year-old draft and final
GEIS will be sufficient to protect the environment of half of the State of New York from
an entirely new form of gas drilling.
Fact # 1
A new GEIS is needed to study the full impacts of the new drilling techniques.
Twenty years ago the DEC studied the potential impacts of drilling vertical wells into
various sedimentary rock formations. The geographic area, well density, and impacts of
extraction were entirely different than what is being proposed today.
For example, the word “horizontal” does not appear once in any of the chapters of the
multi-volume draft and final GEIS. The word “fracing” is used twice, and the words
“hydrologic fracturing” appear six times. In all eight cases, the word “fracturing” is in
reference to vertical, not horizontal wells.
In the old GEIS, the anticipated fracking pressure for vertical wells was 2,000 to 3,500 psi.
The pressure used for horizontal wells in low permeable shale is 8,000 psi,. One might call
it high-volume, high pressure, hydraulic fracturing.
The new form of hydro-fracking is dependent on a toxic brew of chemicals whose impacts
were never reviewed in the old GEIS. While the proportion of these chemicals is small,
their volumes are significant because of the huge amount of water used. In addition, some
of these chemicals are extremely toxic in miniscule quantities.
In section 2.0 the DEC states, “Review will be focused on topics not addressed by the
original GEIS, with emphasis on potential impacts associated with the large volumes of
water required to hydraulically fracture horizontal shale wells using the slick water
fracturing technique. *** However, it is not the Department’s intent or objective to reopen
the 1992 Findings for any activity that was reviewed in the GEIS and which will
The point is that nothing remains consistent because the technique, scale, intensity,
location, and scope of the proposed activity are entirely different.
Assumption # 2
In section 2.1.2 the DEC states, “The Department has no record of any documented
instance of groundwater contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing for gas well
development in New York, despite the use of this technology in thousands of wells across
the state during the past 50 or more years. Division of Mineral Resources staff responsible
for permitting and oversight of gas well drilling since 1980 also do not recall any such
By making this claim, the DEC is assuming that staff recall and department documentation
of groundwater contamination are complete and fulfill the requirements of SEQRA.
Fact # 2
No study has been performed to find out whether or not ground water contamination has
occurred. In addition, as stated in Assumption #1, NYS has no experience with horizontal
drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing, so the claim of having used “this
technology” for over 50 years is erroneous and misleading.
Groundwater contamination may have taken place before the DEC was formed, without
DEC notification, or with no DEC documentation of the events. For example, when
groundwater contamination occurred, the industry may have brought in water to affected
households, filtered dirty water, dug new water wells, paid landowners, or “solved” theproblem of contamination in some other manner. Or landowners whose wells were
contaminated may have lacked the resources to do anything about it.
The DEC should contact all current and past landowners whose land has been drilled to
find out whether or not there have been instances of contamination in vertical wells. In
addition, scientific literature, court documents and newspaper articles should be reviewed.
To learn about ground water contamination, the DEC needs to review the records of other
states where horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing has been taking
Assumption # 3
The DEC assumes that because well casings (may) have protected ground water supplies in
vertical wells they will also do so in horizontal wells that will be fracked, and re-fracked, at
much higher pressures with greater amounts of water, sand, and other chemicals.
Fact # 3
Concrete breaks down, particularly under stress, as anyone can observe in foundations and
When drilling vertically, or when fracturing rock in a vertical well, it may be possible to
contain the flow of materials up and down the drill hole if the casing has been perfectly
constructed. However, there are substantive questions about how long a well casing can
maintain its integrity, and whether the quantity of water being used in horizontal hydrofracking,
and the pressure under which it is being injected, will break down the cement.
The DEC needs to study the impact of higher pressures, increased volumes, and repeated
hydrofracking on well casings. The department also needs to study plugged wells to
determine how the concrete is decaying over time, and whether that decay threatens our
water and soil from subsurface contaminants. What happens if a plugged vertical well is
reopened and horizontal wells drilled through it? The DEC should also document how
many wells were never plugged, and discuss what will happen if a new well is fracked near
an older unplugged well.
Assumption # 4
The DEC assumes that toxic materials cannot migrate from horizontal drill holes through
layers of shale into water supplies, soil, or air.
Fact # 4
Geologists acknowledge that the layers of shale are filled with vertical cracks and fissures.
In some places these layers have been displaced so that the angle of sedimentation is no
longer horizontal, but folded and angled 45 degrees or more towards the surface.
The sediments that lie beneath our feet are not solid bedrock; they are porous and
permeable. They have been subjected to different forces, including tectonic pressures and
seismic activity that have created cracks and fissures. These openings allow liquids and
gases to move within the earth.
Even the DEC has admitted this:
“Once gas escapes from the wellbore, under certain geologic conditions it can travel
considerable distance either laterally or vertically and through natural fractures reach the
surface or infiltrate a water zone. Gas in an aquifer can enter the water wells which tap it.
The presence of gas in a water well presents a safety hazard. The gas can accidentally be
ignited at the water tap or it can build-up inside the house in explosive quantities.” [1988
DGEIS, chapter 10, p. 4-5]
Horizontal drill holes, unlike vertical wells, will not be cased. As the gas companies bore
through fractured sedimentary rock, they will create new pathways for the migration of
naturally occurring and injected toxic chemicals. Since nobody has a map of where these
cracks and fissures are located, their width, or their course, there is no way to know how
the liquids and gases will travel through the cracks, and when or where they might emerge
at the earth’s surface. Nor does anybody know how these cracks might change over time
with the use of high-pressure fracking, deep impact bombing, geothermal wells, or future
seismic or tectonic activity.
The new GEIS should include maps showing areas of potential seismic activity, fractures,
and how the number and intensity of fractures increase as you move east. It should also
include lists of the natural and injected materials that are chemically capable of seeping
through cracks into aquifers, or to the earth’s surface. The potential environmental impacts
of all these materials, including methane, (future) sequestered CO2, injected fracking
fluids, and radioactive gases should be reviewed.
Assumption # 5
In section 4.1 Noise, Visual and Air Quality Impacts, the DEC refers to the old GEIS,
where they are described “in terms of both the short duration well drilling phase – when
the well site is, in effect, a small construction site – and the long-term production phase
when such impacts are drastically reduced because the equipment used during drilling
operations is removed and the areas not needed for production operations are reclaimed.”
Fact # 5
The construction phase of drilling and fracking deep horizontal wells is likely to be long
term and continuous, so these old construction and production phases no longer apply.
A number of things make the assumptions in the GEIS totally out of date:
– The new spacing rule allows 16 well pads per square mile, which is denser than
– The amount of materials needed to frack each well has increased exponentially.
– The amount of pressure needed to frack low permeable shale is 3 to 4 times what
was needed for vertical wells.
– The amount of time needed to drill and frack each well has quadrupled (from 1 or 2
weeks to 4, 5, or 6 weeks).
– Horizontal wells in shale have low pressure, and frequently need to be re-fracked.
– Horizontal wells often need compressors during the production phase, and these
noisy machines run 24/7.
It is likely that a property owner would be suffering the impacts of well drilling in one
spacing unit for over a year. If their property adjoins two or more units, then the
“construction phase” could be a multi-year process. By the time the first series of wells
have been drilled, they might need to be re-fracked.
When the well goes from “construction” to “production,” the noise emanating from the pad
does not diminish; it just switches from rigs to compressors.
Unlike construction zones, the noise, lights, visual blight, and air pollution would be
spewing forth 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Since the environmental impacts from horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic
fracturing are repeated and long lasting, they require a totally new environmental review.
The DEC should study noise levels and review literature on noise impacts of horizontal
drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing in other states. Monitoring equipment
should be established at set distances, and based on the information acquired, statewide
standards should be established. When houses or adjoining property lines fall within zones
of unacceptable levels, noise buffers around drilling sites should be required.
The DEC should study visual impacts by reviewing literature and making site visits to
other states where horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing have been
established. Statistics on spacing density and re-fracking activity in those states should be
published. Using that information, images of rigs and well pads should be superimposed
on aerial photographs of NYS. If done with a GIS system, topographical information and
spacing units can be layered onto the images, and impacts on a viewshed deduced.
The proposed drilling for natural gas in areas of low-permeable shale could affect many
areas of NYS where there are a substantial number of second home owners and/or in areas
where people have chosen their property, and made substantial investments to it, based on
existing patterns of open space. Information on population density and the average
number of acres per property owner per town should be gathered and published.
In addition, the new type of drilling will require larger well pads and this will affect hilly
and mountainous regions that were not studied in the last GEIS. The impact of changing
the topography of rural areas to create five or more acres of level land per well pad, at a
density of 16 pads per square mile, needs to be studied.
The proposed drilling could severely impact the pristine air quality in the southern half of
NYS. Exhaust from the huge number of diesel trucks, dust from construction activity,
emissions from wells that will be flared (either intentionally or accidentally), as well as the
evaporation of hazardous materials in waste pits, could lead to a profound deterioration of
NYS’ air quality. The use and emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in fracking
fluids could have a profound impact on all ecosystems.
The DEC should study air quality levels and review literature on air quality impacts of
horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing in other states. Monitoring
equipment should be established at set distances in those states, and based on the
information acquired, standards established for NY. Strict regulations, such as the required
use of low sulfur fuel and the prohibition of toxic chemicals in hydro-fracking, should be
Assumption # 6
The old GEIS assumes that a municipal water supply can be impacted by a natural gas well
located 2000 feet away. Simultaneously it is assumed that a natural gas well can be
located 150 feet from a water well serving a single-family home with no impact at all.
Fact # 6
The discrepancy in standards and impact areas defies logic. If a municipal well can be
impacted at 2000 feet, then it is possible, depending upon the aquifer being tapped, that a
homeowner’s well can also be impacted at 2000 feet.
In the draft scope of work, it is implied that the NYC watershed area is somehow “more
sensitive” than other areas of the state. This is an unjustified prejudice, not a scientific
According to the old GEIS, over two million people are dependent on springs and wells for
their drinking water. Few of these families are financially able to either prove that a gas
driller has ruined their water supply or pay for a new source of water.
Updated information on the number of households dependent of springs and wells, as well
as the average income per household per town and county, should be gathered and
published. The costs of supplying water to a household, business, and farm if their well is
contaminated should also be provided.
The DEC should study surface and ground water contamination caused by horizontal
drilling and high-volume, high pressure hydraulic fracturing in other states. Based on that
information, strict, uniform, statewide regulations should be promulgated. There should be
equal protection for the water supplies of all New Yorkers.
Assumption # 7
In section 4.8 Community Character, the DEC refers back to section 4.1: “As with the
noise and visual impacts discussed above, any potential negative community impact
occurs primarily during the drilling phase, which includes stimulation and completion. The
impacts are similar to those of a construction site, analogous to road improvement or sewer
excavation projects, with similar potential for temporary community impacts.”
Fact # 7
The construction phase of drilling and fracking deep horizontal wells is likely to be long
term and continuous, so the DEC’s assumptions, based on its experience with vertical
wells, no longer apply. (For details see Fact # 5.)
A full build out of natural gas wells in the southern half of NYS will alter each rural
community beyond recognition.
The DEC should study social impacts and review literature on social impacts of horizontal
drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing in towns in other states. Information on
population changes, demands for services, fire and emergency budget rates, drug and
alcohol addiction rates, crime rates, etc. should be gathered and published.
The following topics have not been mentioned in the draft scope of work and need to be
It appears that there can be extremely unpleasant smells in gas drilling areas.
Information on what chemicals or minerals are causing these odors should be
provided, and methods of containment/mitigation should be developed
Well pads use high intensity lights while they are being developed. Standards
should be established so that all lights have hoods or protectors so that the light
only shines directly down, not laterally into other people’s property, or up into the
3. Use of gray water
It has been suggested that one way to avoid water withdrawals is to use water from
wastewater treatment plants, or other industrial facilities, for fracking wells. This
could potentially lead to new contamination problems at the well pads, in drinking
water aquifers, or surface water supplies.
4. Wastewater treatment plants
It appears that local authorities may be asked to treat fracking fluids in municipal
wastewater treatment plants. The impacts of brine, arsenic, NORMS, and fracking
fluids on their equipment, operations, and discharge permits should be evaluated.
5. Illegal dumping
Study impacts from the illegal dumping of drilling waste and fracking fluids.
6. Health impacts
A full build out of the natural gas industry over half of NYS could have dire
consequences on people’s health, through soil, air, and water contamination. A full
study, preferable by the Department of Health, should be undertaken.
Thank you for consideration of my comments.
Anne Marie Garti