A New Yorker's Guide to Industrial Gas Drilling

Gas drilling in New York could contaminate drinking water for millions of New Yorkers.

A New Yorker's Guide to Industrial Gas Drilling

The public safety of New Yorkers is at stake as gas drilling in the state threatens drinking water supplies for millions of people.

Earthjustice is working with local citizen groups in New York to press decision-makers to hold off on opening up more of the state to fracking until we know more about its effect on our health.

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FAQ: What You Need to Know

Q.

Gas drilling in New York?
I thought that only happened in other places.

Map of Marcellus Shale.
Map: Gas drilling in Marcellus Shale.
(Click to enlarge.)

Lured by rising gas prices, oil and gas companies like Exxon and BP are at New York's doorstep, clamoring for access to underground reserves throughout the state and demanding the right to blast millions of gallons of chemically-treated water into the earth to extract the gas. This controversial technique is known as "hydraulic fracturing." And if it sounds scary, that's because it is. Of particular interest to oil and gas companies is a geologic formation known as the Marcellus Shale, which stretches primarily from New York to Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.

Q.

What? They want to blast millions of gallons of water laced with chemicals into the ground?

Yes. What's more, the companies won't tell us what chemicals they're using. And that may end up being the least of our problems. Once the oil and gas companies are done with the water, it's even more contaminated, sometimes even radioactive. If not handled properly, this wastewater can poison drinking water wells and public water supplies. Not to mention the air pollution, heavy truck traffic, and destruction of forests that comes with all of this industrial activity.

Q.

How will I be affected?

The areas where oil and gas companies want to drill stretch through the Southern Tier and Catskill areas of Upstate New York. [View map] These areas supply drinking water for more than 13 million people—including people upstate, in New York City, and in Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess, and Putnam counties. So if you live in these areas or if you've ever taken a hike through the Catskills, gone for a swim in the Finger Lakes, enjoyed fresh milk and cheese from one of New York's dairies, chances are none of these things will be the same once the drill rigs roll in from Texas.

Q.

How do you know that all of this terrible stuff might happen?

We've witnessed what has happened right next door in Pennsylvania, where the pace of drilling has tripled over the past year. Oil and gas companies are contaminating water faster than the state's treatment plants can handle it. In some cases, people's wells have even exploded, residents can light the water from their faucet on fire, and pets have gotten sick from drinking tap water. The Monongahela River, a drinking water source for 350,000 people, was poisoned. Pristine state forest is being handed over to oil and gas companies.

Q.

Radioactive waste and flaming tap water?
What can I do to help?

We are facing the fight of our lives to keep oil and gas companies at bay while we figure out how to keep New Yorkers safe. Our state leaders need to hear from you. Email the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, telling them not to issue any drilling permits until state-of-the-art regulations have been put in place to protect New Yorkers from the impacts of gas drilling.

Related: Wanted: Frack Busters (Costume Preferred)

Clean Water, Not Dirty Drilling.

Earthjustice is proud to be a part of Clean Water NOT Dirty Drilling, a network of organizations working to protect the rights and health of landowners, communities, and one of our most precious environmental resources—water—from the dangers of irresponsible natural gas exploration and development.

Visit CleanWaterNotDirtyDrilling.org to learn more about clean water vs. dirty drilling. And if you're a New Yorker, join the New York Water Rangers to defend your water!

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Is there something strange in your drinking water? The EPA has setup a hotline for suspicious gas drilling activity. Call 1-877-919-4EPA (toll free) or email eyesondrilling@epa.gov.