Not all drinking water in New York is created equal. As of today, some watersheds will be excluded from the pending generic environmental review process for high volume- horizontal drilling in the Marcellus and other shale formations.
This afternoon, NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced that "due to the unique issues related to the protection of New York City and Syracuse drinking water supplies" applications to drill in those watersheds will require a case-by-case environmental review process to "establish whether appropriate measures to mitigate potential impacts can be developed".
At this time there are 58 pending applications for horizontal drilling in the Marcellus shale, but none of those are located in the
The federal Safe Drinking Water Act requires that drinking water taken from surface water sources must be filtered to reduce the risk of waterborne disease. If a water supplier is able to demonstrate that they meet strict water quality criteria without filtration, they may request a FAD. In addition, the supplier must prove that it effectively implements a comprehensive watershed management plan.
FADs are rarely granted, but both
"The environmental safety protocols included in the SGEIS must fully protect drinking water supplies and mitigate significant environmental risks wherever drilling might occur," DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said in comments released to the press. "Even with those protections in place, in order to better assure the continued use of an unfiltered surface water supply, there must be an additional review process which may result in associated regulatory and other controls on drilling. DEC will be vigilant in ensuring environmental safeguards," he promised.
The NY State Department of Health has the primary jurisdiction over the FADs. State Health Commissioner Dr. Richard Daines noted that watershed protection is critical for an unfiltered, FAD system. "The
As a result of today’s decision, applicants for natural gas drilling permits using high-volume horizontal drilling in the FAD watersheds will not be able to utilize the SGEIS. Instead, they will need to meet special requirements relating to the unfiltered surface water supply. That means they will need to conduct individual environmental reviews to address the continuation of the FAD.
The DEC will work closely with the state Department of Health, the local watershed communities, and with the cities benefiting from the FADs to develop the additional drilling requirements that may be applicable in the FAD watersheds.
Which leaves the rest of us in the region wondering: an' ain't we a Watershed too?
This announcement generated a lot of comments from NY legislators. Senator Thomas Duane (29th district) said : "I fear it is a cynical move that will pit New Yorkers against each other ... residents in Manhattan and Syracuse, for example, will benefit from this decision while those living in Ithaca and Jamestown will not."