Emergency Action: Don’t let Auburn NY become the toxic wasewater capital of NYS

This WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7 at 6PM at AUBURN CITY HALL, City Council is scheduled to vote to reverse its ban on gas drilling wastewater.

Emboldened by the recent election of two fellow Republicans, Auburn City Councilor Matt Smith is proposing to rescind Auburn’s ban on accepting wastewater into its sewage treatment plant. This could overturn the landmark decision that we fought so hard for this spring. It is absolutely imperative that people show up and make calls to persuade the new city council to stop this from happening. Remind them that companies like Talisman and Anshutz were delivering their wastewater with pollutant levels that consistently exceeded the plants own regulations.

Here are three things you can do to help us stop them from making a grave error for New York State:

1.) Show up at Auburn City Hall, 24 South Street, Auburn on Wed., March 7, 2012 at 6pm to request that they Maintain the Ban.

Don’t let Auburn become the toxic gas drilling wastewater capital of New York State

2.) Call or e-mail the Auburn City Council and ask them to MAINTAIN THE BAN!

Councilor Matt Smith – Phone: 315-252-8489; Email: Councilor.Smith@auburnny.gov Councilor Pete Ruzicka – Phone: 315-234-7950; Email: Councilor.Ruzicka@auburnny.gov

Councilor John Camardo – 315-252-7537; Email: Councilor.Camardo@auburnny.gov

Councilor Bill Graney – 315-730-0130; Email: Councilor.Graney@auburnny.gov

Mayor Mike Quill – 315-253-4371; Email: mayorquill@auburnny.gov

3.) Vote “No” on The Citizen poll question, “Should the Auburn City Council repeal the ban on treating natural gas drilling wastewater at the city’s sewage plant?”

The Citizen poll

As New York municipalities and communities are trying to place protections against the abuses associated with natural gas drilling, One Auburn City Councilor is inviting gas drillers to bring their toxic waste into our community with open arms. The resolution must not be overturned until DEC has adopted a Final SGEIS and EPA has adopted “categorical” pretreatment standards to safeguard Auburn.  To allow gas drilling wastewater dumping without these regulatory protections in-place would be premature and irresponsible.

Thank you for your vigilance. We hope to see you on Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 6pm at Auburn City Hall.

Posted in CAFA, Environment, Hydrofracking, watershed protection | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Setting the Record Straight on Auburn’s gas drilling wastewater issue

On Thursday, members of Auburn City Council will discuss raising the sewer rates. City Councilor Matt Smith, his supporters and the local newspaper have already blamed this increase on the council’s decision to ban all natural gas drilling wastewater at its sewage treatment plant. The three councilors who took an important stand are all up for reelection this November and face challenges from tough political opponents. This letter is an attempt to set the record straight, and a version of it will be read at Thursday night’s meeting.

To the Auburn city council

The Cayuga Anti-Fracking Alliance, a group of mainly Auburn residents, formed last February when the NY Times published an article citing Auburn as one of the few places in the state to accept natural gas drilling wastewater. This group came to council many times expressing our concerns in a respectful manner, and its members were fortunate enough to be listened to by a majority of council. That is the democratic process at work.

Unfortunately, our group has been misrepresented and maligned in media reports and in public comments made by Councilor Matt Smith and his supporters. We’ve been labeled as an out-of-town mob. The local newspaper has described the decision by Mayor Michael Quill, and Councilors Gilda Brower and Thomas McNabb as kowtowing to environmental activists. Smith has accused them of stealing $600,000 from the taxpayers, and basing their decision on emotion.

This is political theater.

As media critics, we are very well aware of the tricks elected officials play to misdirect the public and change the narrative to suit their political needs. In today’s media climate, every story has two sides, and it would be unsurprising to read a story debating whether or not the sky is blue, but there is still such a thing as indisputable fact.

Here are the facts:

  • The $600,000 shortfall is not a figure based in reality, but only a projected figure that had been plugged into the 2011-12 city budget. The reality is many gas-drilling companies stopped bringing natural gas drilling wastewater to the plant once the city insisted they follow plant regulations. From January to May 31 of 2011, the city collected a little over $149,000 in revenue. By June—a month before the vote on the ban took place—the city received no natural gas drilling wastewater. This money could not be counted upon. There would have been a shortfall regardless if the council passed a ban on accepting natural gas drilling wastewater or not.
  • The gas drillers were not scared away by the publicity generated by out-of-town environmental activists. In April, the city issued a public notice detailing how the gas companies did not meet sewage plant regulations. Prior to that notice, the gas drilling companies submitted no monitoring reports for 15 months, in direct violation of their permits. Then on June 22, 2011, Municipal Utilities Director Vicky Murphy sent letters requesting all gas companies stop delivering wastewater because of the high pollutant content. The vote on the ban took place July 7. Once again, this money could not be counted upon because the gas drilling companies could not be counted upon to follow the regulations.
  • Smith, with Murphy’s help, has pointed out that city had accepted wastewater from vertical wells for 10 years with nary a problem. Before 2008, the city mainly accepted wastewater from vertical wells in Cayuga County, that is true, but then the former city administrator made the concerted effort to actively seek out gas drilling companies by hiring an outside consultant to pursue this money-making venture. The gas drilling wastewater then came primarily from horizontal wells, according to the city’s discharge records. In that 15 months, when the gas companies submitted no reports, the city conducted one test on one day, March 11, 2010, and found no problems. I would contend that data is meaningless. It would be similar to testing one student in a school district and basing the district’s performance on that one test. When the gas companies finally did submit the required monitoring, the reports showed the water was extremely salty and polluted, far above what the plant could accept.
  • Auburn was only one of two plants in the state to accept this wastewater.
  • The sewage treatment plant was designed to treat human waste not highly toxic natural gas drilling wastewater.

We would hope that tonight’s discussion sticks to the facts. We will summarize the main point simply: the city of Auburn would have had a budget shortfall regardless of the ban or CAFA’s existence because the revenue could not be counted upon. Nonetheless, we commend the majority of council for basing its decision to ban natural gas drilling wastewater on the facts. These councilors put the safety and welfare of Auburn residents and their downstream neighbors above a questionable policy to make a profit using the wastewater treatment plant.

Posted in CAFA, Environment, Hydrofracking, Uncategorized, watershed protection | Leave a comment

New Map Unveils over 2,300 Gas Drilling Leases in Cayuga County

A new map of gas-drilling leases shows numerous leased properties within the Owasco Lake watershed. Members of the Cayuga Anti-Fracking Alliance (CAFA) sifted through more than 11,000 pages of lease documents and uncovered more than 2,300 properties with gas development agreements in southern Cayuga County. The Owasco Lake watershed, which includes properties in Onondaga and Tompkins counties, has more than 1,100 gas leases.

The map comes on the heels of recently revised state regulations guiding the implementation of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, in New York State. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has only granted protection to unfiltered drinking water supplies, leaving the Owasco Lake watershed open to gas drilling.  Gas drillers have said they are likely to move ahead with obtaining permits for hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale by the beginning of 2012.

“This map is more comprehensive than previous maps of our county, and should inform residents and local policy makers of the potential risks involved with hydrofracking especially when it comes to our drinking water,” said Terry Cuddy, a founding member of CAFA.

Cuddy said the majority of gas leases not only allow for drilling but also for storage, and his concern is that many of these sites will be used for injection wells to contain flowback water, which is highly toxic.

“I’m also concerned about where these companies will obtain the millions of gallons of water necessary to frack these wells,” Cuddy said. “Our lake is left unprotected.”

It takes on average 5 millions of gallons of water and over 1,000 truck trips to frack one well. If hydrofracking moves ahead, the county needs to prepare itself for the tremendous increase in truck traffic and the industrialization of agricultural lands, said Walt Aikman, CAFA member who spearheaded the mapping project.  With the exception of Skaneateles Lake watershed, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s hydrofracking plan allows high-volume hydrofracking in all Finger Lakes watersheds, Aikman said.

“The Cuomo plan claims drinking water from the Owasco Lake watershed does not need additional protection,” Aikman said. “but you’ve got to wonder how Auburn and Owasco can filter drinking water without full disclosure of the chemical composition of frack fluids.”

Aikman said he also has concerns for emergency personnel responding to accidents and spills due to that very same issue.

The Cayuga County Legislature is considering a resolution to prohibit hydrofracking in all watersheds in the Finger Lakes as well as the Lake Ontario watershed.  This legislation, if approved, supports an earlier effort by State Sen. Michael Nozzolio who sent a letter to the DEC in early August insisting that all Finger Lakes’ watersheds be granted the same protections as Syracuse and New York City.

Posted in CAFA, Environment, Hydrofracking, Uncategorized, watershed protection | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Citizen Poll

The Citizen has a new poll on its website that asks the question: What matters more to you in the debate over whether to allow natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale? The economic benefits or the environmental issues? Weigh in here. As of now, environmental issues have 44 percent of the vote, the highest percentage.

The Citizen also includes a letter to the editor written by Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of NY. In the letter, Gill advocates against creating an industry-supported fund to pay for any environmental damage caused by hydrofracking. What a shock. Why does Gill hold this position? Because apparently in NY gas drillers have an “outstanding” record of environmental protection and “we operate with the best interests of the environment in mind.” Strange, because from the gas drilling operations conducted in Pennsylvania and other states it seems to be that the gas drillers operate with the interests of profit in mind.


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Flaws in 2011 SGEIS

Check out this site to read about the flaws in NYS DEC’s 2011 Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) that was released in July. A public comment period will soon begin, and it is essential that as many residents as possible write the DEC to point out the issues in the current draft. The site breaks down in detail the top 17 flaws.

Some of them include:

1. Equal protections for all watersheds. Right now the SGEIS only contains protection for Syracuse and New York City watersheds because they are unfiltered water supplies. It treats the rest of us drinking filtered water supplies or from unfiltered water wells as second class citizens.

2. Flowback fluid – where is it going to go? The SGEIS makes the case that municipal sewage plants can treat this water that contains a toxic mix of petroleum hydrocarbons, heavy metals, total dissolved solids and radionuclides. Pennsylvania, which is in the midst of a natural gas boon, told their wastewater treatment plants to stop taking the fluid because the plants could not treat it and were basically discharging it as is into the water.


2011 SGEIS Flaws


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State Sen. Michael Nozzolio supports protecting all FL watersheds from Fracking

State Sen. Michael Nozzolio recently sent a letter to DEC Commissioner Joe Martens to insists ALL Finger Lakes’ watersheds be protected not just Skaneateles. He stated: “The contamination of any of these lakes would undoubtedly have severe and devastating effects on the entire region.”

This is something CAFA supports. Municipal water filtration plants will not be able to purify hydrofracking fluids so the notion that we are somewhat protected by our filtration systems is insane.  Three kiddie pools of benzene would basically contaminate all of Cayuga Lake, according to Frack the Movie. We need to protect all watersheds not just the unfiltered ones.
Read more: http://auburnpub.com/news/local/article_a0bae4e4-c097-11e0-8838-001cc4c002e0.html#ixzz1UXkBMnqZ

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CAFA’s New Blog

We recognize that some of our supporters, and even our members, do not use Facebook so we have decided to start a blog as a way to keep you abreast of our events, information, projects and news. We plan to make available documents that we collected, which helped in our victory to stop Auburn NY from accepting natural gas drilling wastewater at its municipal treatment plant. We will also use this site as a way to clear up any misconceptions or misinformation that is deliberately put out for public consumption to discredit the fight against hydrofracking.

Posted in CAFA, Environment, Hydrofracking, watershed protection | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments