New York City: Come Out and Tell the State to Keep Our Water Clean

First, some good news.  Responding to the calls of concerned folks across the state, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation yesterday extended the public comment period until December 31 on its draft environmental impact statement for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation, which includes the drinking watershed for all of New York City and 1 million New Yorkers outside the five boroughs.

Now, for what you need to know between now and then.

Next Tuesday, November 10th at Stuyvesant High School, DEC is holding its one and only NYC hearing on gas drilling in the NYC watershed.  If you want continued safe drinking water, we urge you to come out to rally ahead of the hearing and testify that the state needs to protect it.

The Marcellus underlies the entire west-of-Hudson portion of the NYC watershed, which in turn supplies 90% of the clean, unfiltered drinking water enjoyed by 8 million New York City residents, and an additional 1 million residents of Westchester.

Industrial gas drilling has been linked to drinking water contamination in other parts of the country, and because of the risk it would pose to this invaluable resource in New York, NRDC has been working with elected officials and other environmental organizations to convince the state to impose an outright ban on gas drilling in the watershed.  At stake is not only the quality of the water we drink and our public health, but also tens of billions of taxpayer dollars that would be needed to build and operate remedial systems if this decision is mishandled.

Yes, last week Chesapeake Energy gave its (not legally binding) word that it won't drill in the watershed (for now).  But this temporary, non-enforceable promise from one company is not sufficient to protect the NYC watershed. And there are dozens of other energy companies who have made no such promises. We need the state to enact a formal ban that applies to all companies for all time.

And of course, the potential impacts aren't limited to New York City's water.  Threats to drinking water supplies throughout the Marcellus formation upstate, as well as air quality, land use and other concerns also abound.  As I have previously blogged, we will continue working with our experts to develop a thorough set of comments and recommendations to ensure that all the state's resources receive the utmost possible protection.

In the meantime, we need your help to protect your drinking water and let DEC know of your concerns by attending the upcoming gas drilling rally & public hearing next Tuesday.

At 5 pm, Borough President Scott Stringer is kicking off the evening's events, leading a rally outside Stuyvesant High School (345 Chambers Street, between the West Side Highway and Hudson River Park). We need hundreds of people to send the message that we need a ban on drilling in the NYC watershed now!

Then, at 6:30 pm, a public hearing before the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will occur inside the high school.  Doors open at 5:30 pm for individual questions and speaker sign-up.  [Note: If you've been following this already,  this is one half hour earlier than previously scheduled].  We expect a huge turnout, so come early for the rally and to ensure that your name gets on the list to testify.

This is our one chance to let the state hear it from our mouths.  Let's let the state know that New Yorkers won't stand for drilling with toxic chemicals in our watershed.