Yesterday, Sunday February 27th, the New York Times ran an extremely well researched and documented article by Ian Urbina titled, “Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers” that will unquestionably change the dynamics of the fight to prevent unsafe gas drilling in New York State.

Key among the article’s many revelations is that radioactive wastewater resulting from hydrofracking has been dumped into rivers, streams and lakes at levels that are up to thousands of times greater than what the EPA considers safe.  Catskill Mountainkeeper has summarized the key points of this landmark article below to put it into perspective for our e-members and we are asking you to take action now to maximize the positive momentum this story is creating.

Article Summary

The article unequivocally and definitively establishes that the danger to our health and our environment from hydraulic fracturing is much greater than previously understood; that government regulations have not kept pace with the natural gas industry’s expansion and that government on every level lacks the manpower to adequately police the industry.

As part of their multi-month investigation, the Times reviewed thousands of internal documents from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that revealed that wastewater, the byproduct from hydrofracking, contains radioactivity and other toxic materials at levels that are frequently geometrically higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for wastewater treatment plants to handle. EPA and industry researchers say that the biggest danger of radioactive wastewater is its potential to contaminate drinking water and enter the food chain through fish or farming. Once radium enters a person’s body, by eating, drinking or breathing, it can cause cancer, asthma and a plethora of other health problems, many federal studies show.

The Times also found never-reported studies by the EPA and confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.

The Times’ exhaustive study which included review of 30,000 pages of federal, state and company records relating to 200 gas wells in PA, 40 in WV and 20 public and private wastewater treatment plans found the following:

  • More than 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater was produced by Pennsylvania wells over the past three years, far more than has been previously disclosed. Most of this water — enough to cover Manhattan in three inches — was sent to treatment plants not equipped to remove many of the toxic and hazardous materials in drilling waste.
  • Treatment plants in Pennsylvania discharged waste into some of the state’s major river basins including the Monongahela River, which provides drinking water to more than 800,000 people including Pittsburgh and the Susquehanna River, which feeds into Cheasapeake Bay and provides drinking water to more than 6 million people.
  • Drillers in Pennsylvania trucked at least half of their waste to at least 12 sewage treatment plants in three other states including two plants in New York that discharge into Southern Cayuga Lake near Ithaca and Owasco Outlet, near Auburn. 
  • Of more than 179 wells producing wastewater with high levels of radiation, at least 116 reported levels of radium or other radioactive materials 100 times as high as the levels set by federal drinking-water standards. At least 15 wells produced wastewater carrying more than 1,000 times the amount of radioactive elements considered acceptable.
  • Most wastewater facilities cannot remove enough of the radioactive material to meet federal drinking-water standards before discharging the wastewater into rivers, sometimes just miles upstream from drinking–water intake plants.
  • Federal and state regulators have given nearly all drinking-water intake facilities in Pennsylvania permission to only test for radioactivity once every six or nine years and with the blessing of regulators, have not tested for radioactivity since before 2006, even though the drilling boom began in 2008.

In addition, The Times reported that In Texas which now has about 93,000 natural gas wells, a hospital system in six counties with some of the heaviest drilling said in 2010 that it found a 25% asthma rate for young children, more than three times the state rate of about 7%. 

Much of the information in the article was based on what is happening in Pennsylvania and the outlet for that state looks bleak.  Nonetheless, Governor Tom Corbett has said that he would reopen state land to new drilling reversing a decision made by his predecessor Edward G. Rendell.  The change clears the way for as many as 10,000 wells on public land, up from about 25 active wells today.
Take Action

This article incontrovertibly confirms the many devastating risks New York State would face if gas drilling utilizing hydrofracking were green lighted. As concerned and informed citizens we must immediately take the necessary actions to make sure drilling doesn’t commence in New York State unless it can be unequivocally proven to pose no threat to the environment or people in New York State.

  1. Join with Josh Fox, Director of Gasland, in calling on President Obama to impose an immediate moratorium on the practice of hydraulic fracturing across the United States until such time as these practices have been unequivocally proven to pose no threat to the environment or the citizens of the United States of America. Click here to email President Obama.
  2. Call on Governor Cuomo to instruct the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to indefinitely extend the Executive Order that requires the DEC to go back and review the regulations under which gas drilling using fracking can occur. Click here to email Governor Cuomo.
  3. Call on Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA, to immediately begin monitoring radioactivity levels at all drinking water intakes that are in close proximity to sewage treatment plants that accept natural gas drilling wastewater and to seek from Congress action that will untie the hands of the EPA so that it can assert proper oversight of the full life-cycle of the hydraulic fracturing process by repealing the egregious exemptions that this industry enjoys from our national’s most important environmental safeguards. Click here to email Ms. Jackson.

Please consider supporting Catskill Mountainkeeper today.

About Catskill Mountainkeeper

Catskill Mountainkeeper is a community based environmental advocacy organization, dedicated to creating a flourishing a sustainable economy in the Catskills and preserving and protecting the area’s long term health.  We address issues of water integrity for the Delaware and Susquehanna River Systems, the defense of the vast woodlands that encompass the Catskill Forest Preserve and the New York City Watershed as well as farmland protection. We promote “smart” development that balances the economic needs and concerns of the Catskill regions’ citizens and the protection of our abundant but exceedingly vulnerable natural resources.

Catskill Mountainkeeper is an independent not for profit 501c3 organization. 

An ambitious plan is unveiled to manage Three Rivers wildlife


An ambitious plan is unveiled to manage Three Rivers wildlife

Sunday, February 27, 2011

By John Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Matt Freed/Post-Gazette

New research on the Allegheny River finds that despite some mutations, it’s among the best smallmouth rivers in the Eastern United States. Above, pro-angler Michael Bennett of Lincoln, Calif., fishes the Allegheny during the 2009 Forrest Wood Cup.

Invasive Asian carp are moving up the Ohio River, Marcellus Shale sites are spreading down the Monongahela, and most of the Allegheny River locks are almost certain to be closed. At the same time, mayflies are hatching at The Point, native trout are spawning in the upper Allegheny in numbers unseen in generations, and twice in the last five years Pittsburgh water quality was spotlighted in two world-class bass fishing tournaments.

What’s going on, and whatever it is, is it a good thing or a bad thing?

“That’s a good question,” said John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. At two recent public meetings in Monroeville, he and PFBC staff unveiled a draft management plan Arway said would seek to provide answers and act decisively on what is found.

The new plan is part of a broad-reaching initiative the Fish and Boat Commission says will research, monitor, utilize, protect and enhance wildlife in the state’s three great rivers — the Delaware, Susquehanna and Three Rivers system. At a time of dwindling resources and rising costs, Arway said the plans would be accomplished without incurring new costs by reassigning personnel to new duties.

The Three Rivers plan calls for the PFBC to partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey, state Department of Environmental Protection, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and other state and federal agencies and organizations to research and impact the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers. Among its goals (each with a two- to five-year deadline) are to evaluate and respond to:

• Human activities, including navigation dams, pollution and other threats.

• Commercial dredging on the Allegheny and Ohio rivers.

• In-stream and streamside habitats, determining their values and assisting in conservation and restoration efforts.

• Long-term monitoring studies of nongame fish.

• Monitoring and promoting sport fisheries.

• Providing and encouraging opportunities for anglers, boaters and the general public to understand and embrace recreational river resources.

PFBC biologist Bob Venturini said the plan would research catfish on the Three Rivers, and further promote flatheads and channel cats as an angling resource. The agency would work with the Army Corps to determine the practical considerations and wisdom of placing fish passage structures on the dams — they’d permit natural fish migration, but also provide passage for Asian carp and other invasive species.

Venturini said the plan would also investigate muskie and trout reproduction on the upper Allegheny. One of its goals would be to consolidate and enhance smallmouth bass research recently conducted by the National Fish Health Research Laboratory. The study found cases of intersex mutation — fish having both male and female cells — in fewer than 10 percent of bass surveyed in the Allegheny River at New Kensington. If that sounds scary consider that in the Susquehanna River, intersex mutations were found in 90 percent of the fish surveyed.

“That research has looked at streams across the Eastern Seaboard. We collected fish for them here,” said Venturini. “The Allegheny River seems to be in the best condition for smallmouths, and it’s going to serve as a reference stream, sort of a baseline for what can be expected.”

Although some of the research elements of the Three Rivers Management Plan predated his tenure, it’s considered Arway’s first big signature initiative since he replaced Doug Austen as PFBC executive director last March.

“We had a plan, but it wasn’t a formal plan,” said Arway, who is originally from North Huntington. “Every year we would decide what to do, and that was our plan.”

The initiative is the culmination of work started by the Three Rivers Ecological Research Center, a $168,000 per year project backed by Austen that was scrapped when Arway took over.

“Plans change. That’s what the plan’s all about,” said Arway. “What we have to do is look at what changes are happening around us and what influence we might have on improving fishing and boating, as well as fisheries, on the rivers. I think we know enough about what’s going on in the southwest to be able to integrate that.”

The draft management plan will be up for a vote when the Fish and Boat board of commissioners gather at their spring meeting. A summary and the full plan are posted on the agency’s website at, and a public comment function is provided. The deadline for input is April 30.

John Hayes:

An ambitious plan is unveiled to manage Three Rivers wildlife

Subject: Preview Of Game Changing Story In Tomorrow’s New York Times

Catskill Mountainkeeper

February 27, 2011


Catskill Mountainkeeper has just become aware that the New York Times is running a front page story tomorrow Sunday February 27th entitled “Regulation Is Lax for Water From Gas Wells”.

This story, which is one of a three article series, will dramatically change the dynamics of the fight to prevent unsafe drilling for gas in NY State and Pennsylvania.


New York Times Fracking Image

New York Times Takes On Fracking

Stay tuned for more analysis from Catskill Mountainkeeper

Subject: Preview Of Game Changing Story In Tomorrow’s New York Times

Corbett repeals policy on gas drilling in parks – Catskill Flies Forum


Corbett repeals policy on gas drilling in parks
Thursday, February 24, 2011
By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Gov. Tom Corbett has repealed a 4-month-old policy designed to minimize the environmental impact of Marcellus Shale natural gas well drilling in Pennsylvania’s parks.
The policy repeal could hurt recreation and the environment in Ohiopyle State Park and a number of other parks in the western part of the state where oil and gas companies are seeking drilling permits, according to the former director of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which manages the state’s parks and forests.
Notice of the repeal was published last week in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Michael Krancer, acting secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, and several Corbett spokesmen have termed the policy “unnecessary and redundant.”
The DEP notice said the department, which has permitting responsibilities for oil and gas wells, would continue to review and consider comments about drilling on public lands from all interested parties.
Representatives for the two state departments over the past two days referred questions about the policy change to the governor’s office.
Ed Shirk, a Corbett spokesman, said well drilling companies are required to mitigate environmental damage wherever they drill and the DCNR “can raise any concerns it has like any private landowner.”
But John Quigley, who served as former Gov. Ed Rendell’s DCNR secretary, said the repealed policy could have provided important safeguards for managing drilling impacts on many ecologically valuable and vulnerable public park lands.
“The policy wasn’t redundant. In fact, quite the opposite situation exists. There are gaping holes in the state’s ability and practice of considering well drilling applications on public park and forest lands,” Mr. Quigley said. “The policy was just a common-sense approach to mitigating or avoiding any environmental, recreational and aesthetic impacts from the well drilling.”
Mr. Quigley said the repeal of the policy could affect how, where and when Marcellus Shale drilling takes place in the state’s parks.
“Ohiopyle gets 1 million visitors a year and the recreation opportunities it provides are very important to the economy of the region,” he said. “Drilling has been proposed and the question is now how is the state going to manage that?”
Pennsylvania has 117 state parks, 61 of them in the two-thirds of the state lying above the Marcellus Shale, a 380 million-year-old formation that might contain more than 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
The mineral rights — including Marcellus gas deposits — under 85 percent of that park acreage are privately owned. Courts have ruled that the so-called “mineral estate” rights are superior to surface rights in Pennsylvania, and that the owners of underground mineral rights must be given reasonable access to develop those holdings, even when they lie under parks or other publicly owned land.
Mr. Quigley said the repealed policy required the DCNR to perform an environmental review of the drilling proposal and then negotiate a voluntary mitigation agreement with the drilling company, if possible. If the two sides couldn’t reach agreement, the DEP was required to take into account the environmental review findings when issuing a drilling permit.
“It doesn’t say DEP can’t grant the permit. We thought it would be a positive thing to figure out areas of environmental concern so that we could maintain a balance between getting the gas and protecting the state’s park resources,” he said. “It’s to everyone’s advantage not to harm the public lands.”
Mark Nicastre, a spokesman with the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said the decision to end the policy is a payoff to oil and gas industry campaign contributors who donated more than $1 million to Mr. Corbett’s election campaign.
“By making it easier for his donors to drill in state parks and forests, Tom Corbett is boosting his donors’ profits while leaving Pennsylvanians with great uncertainty about the impact of the drilling,” Mr. Nicastre said.
Jeff Schmidt, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club in Harrisburg, said the policy provided a much needed “extra level of scrutiny on drilling proposals for public lands used by millions of Pennsylvanians.”
But State Sen. Mary Jo White, R-Venango, chair of the environmental resources and energy committee, issued a statement on Wednesday strongly supporting the governor’s repeal. She called the policy “irresponsible” and said it could cost taxpayers “tens of millions of dollars from the impairment of existing [drilling] contracts.”
Mr. Quigley said the policy only applied to new drilling permits on state park land, not state forest drilling leases.
Revoking the policy was widely seen as a prelude to Mr. Corbett’s previously stated intention to lift a moratorium, imposed by Mr. Rendell in October, on leasing additional state forest land to Marcellus Shale gas drilling. Mr. Shirk said the governor has not decided when he will take that action.
The state has issued leases for a total of 660,000 acres of the state’s 2.1 million-acre forest system for both shallow and deep gas and oil drilling. The state owns about 85 percent of the mineral rights under its forests.

Corbett repeals policy on gas drilling in parks – Catskill Flies Forum

Field Notes – Noteworthy News from NY Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources


Public Meetings to Discuss Lake Ontario Fisheries Status.
DEC will be conducting three public meetings during the month of March for the annual “State of Lake Ontario” discussions. These meetings provide an opportunity for anglers and others to interact with scientists who study the lake’s fisheries. The DEC, United States Geological Survey, and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources biologists will make a number of presentations, including updates on the status of trout and salmon fisheries, forage fish, lake trout, warmwater fish, and sea lamprey control. There will also be an update on the status of Lake Ontario Sportfishing Restoration Program projects. Meeting details (, including dates, times and locations can be found in the DEC press release.

Field Notes – Noteworthy News from NY Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources

Weather Woes

Our weather is getting worse than worse! We are getting snow and more snow today and now they are saying that it will be raining on Monday, which means flooding .

Hopefully it will be a slow thaw and the cricks will go up slowly.

American Rivers: Email – Take Action: Make Protecting Rivers a Priority


Thanks to all of you who spoke up, America’s rivers and the many clean water, recreation, and health benefits they provide were the focus in a report released last week by the Obama Administration on the America’s Great Outdoors initiative.
The report is an important step to ensure that river protection and restoration is a priority for the Administration.
Please thank President Obama for recognizing the importance of healthy rivers and urge him to implement the river conservation and blueway recommendations in the America’s Great Outdoors report.
Threats to rivers such as pollution, harmful development, and climate change demand innovative solutions and swift action. American Rivers is dedicated to making sure the positive recommendations in the report are implemented – but we can’t do it alone. 
The President needs to hear from you. Take action now and urge President Obama to implement the America’s Great Outdoors report recommendations.

American Rivers: Email – Take Action: Make Protecting Rivers a Priority