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Environmental connections to public health >>

EWG testifies on behalf of clean drinking water (...and bagels)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011
By Leeann Brown, EWG Press Secretary
Environmental Working Group's Senior Counsel Dusty Horwitt made his fourth appearance today (March 1, 2011) before the New York City Council's Committee on Environmental Protection to highlight the risks posed by the weakly regulated boom in natural gas drilling.
What keeps him going back to the Big Apple (and no, it's not only the bagels)?
This time it was the Delaware River Basin, a watershed that serves 15 million people from New York to Delaware and could be in danger of being tainted by natural gas drilling unless adequate safeguards are in place.
The Delaware River Basin Commission, which has authority over water quality throughout the region, has an upcoming March 16 deadline to accept comments on its draft regulations for drilling in the watershed, an area of 13,500 square miles.
At the same time, New York state officials are finalizing a draft environmental impact statement on gas drilling in the state.
Dusty's testimony and supporting comments outlined EWG's major concerns about the expanding drilling activity atop an irreplaceable water source:

  • Allowing drilling without proper safeguards will reward industry's violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act and "put the health of millions of people at risk." A recent Congressional investigation and EWG's own research has documented that gas companies have been using diesel in drilling operations since at least 2005 without the permits legally required under the Act.
  • The Basin's Commission's proposed regulations would allow drilling too close to water sources. The pending rules require that gas wells be placed at least 500 feet from water sources and other water bodies, but documented cases of water contamination have occurred at distances up to seven times greater.
  • A growing number of investigations, including a New York Times story published this week and previous work by EWG and other organizations, show that the industry has been guilty of negligent practices and that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has done little to intervene, leaving people with contaminated drinking water in a number of states.

EWG's Horwitt told the City Council panel:
"The DRBC and New York State have the power - and the responsibility - to protect clean water for millions of citizens. Given what we know of gas drilling's recent track record, the risks are still too great to allow drilling near water supplies."
EWG is glad to see New York City taking its water quality seriously, not just to save its famous bagels and pizza, but to protect its residents' access to clean, pure water.
A victory for clean water in New York and throughout the Mid-Atlantic States will be a big step toward ensuring that water supplies everywhere are protected from the surge in drilling activity.

[Thanks to Roland for the beautiful bagels]

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