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EMERGENCY: Tell DRBC – No water withdrawal for gas drilling in NY!

May 5, 2011

From Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network:

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) plans to vote on a water withdrawal application by XTO Energy (a subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corp.) for natural gas development in Broome and Delaware Counties, New York at their regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, May 11, 2011.  They have set a public hearing on the application at the 1:30 pm meeting, West Trenton Volunteer Fire Company, 40 W. Upper Ferry Rd., West Trenton, N.J.

XTO Energy wants to take 0.25 million gallons of water per day from Oquaga Creek, a native trout stream that flows to the West Branch of the Delaware River in Broome and Delaware Counties to develop gas wells they plan to drill there.  The withdrawal site is on land owned by the Town of Sanford, which has given them access.  There is no permit required by NY State; the DRBC provides the only review of this withdrawal.

Approval of this application is SO WRONG for many reasons including: wrong for the Oquaga Creek and the Delaware River; wrong because there is a moratorium on drilling in the Delaware River Watershed and on horizontal drilling/hydrofracking in New York; wrong because the public is shut out of the process…

Please ATTEND the DRBC May 11 Hearing,  tell DRBC to hold a Hearing in the Broome County area and extend the public comment period to at least 60 days, and send a letter NOW to the DRBC by going to our website – we only have a few days!

To send a letter: http://delawareriverkeeper.org/act-now/urgent-details.aspx?Id=74

Protecting Our Waters ally Delaware River Keeper Network

How can the DRBC approve this water withdrawal during its gas drilling moratorium, while its draft gas rules are pending and while New York has a hold on its generic permit for hydraulically fractured-horizontally drilled gas wells while it completes its environmental review?  How can they justify pushing this approval ahead when the rules could very well change how this application will be treated?  XTO has no permits for gas wells and has not justified its need for any water, much less 250,000 gallons of water every day from this cold water stream. What’s the rush?

DRBC is ignoring the communities who will be most immediately affected by this withdrawal.  There is no hearing scheduled in the Oquaga Creek area, in Broome or Delaware Counties where the water would be taken from and the wells would be drilled.  Trout fishermen who love this creek and spend lots of time on it have no idea what’s coming.  It takes 4 hours to get to West Trenton from Sanford, NY; it not reasonable to expect people to make this trip.

The only other DRBC approved water withdrawal for gas development had a 60+ day public comment period and a Public Hearing in the Upper Delaware last year, near the withdrawal location.  One daytime Hearing in West Trenton with only 10 working days notice before a vote is cast deprives everyone, all 15 million of us who drink Delaware River water, of a way to meaningfully participate.  We must demand fairness!

New York State is supposed to protect Oquaga Creek, a trout stream, by applying “special requirements to sustain waters that support these valuable and sensitive fisheries resources under NYSDEC Protection of Waters regulations” (DRBC Docket D-2010-022-1, XTO, p. 2). Where is this protection?  How will this withdrawal affect the trout, benthic life, and water quality of this richly diverse creek and of the downstream West Branch and main stem Delaware that need the cold fresh flows of the Oquaga to support stream life and water supplies downstream?  Neither New York nor the DRBC has analyzed this or supplied an answer.  This is flat out wrong.

Speak out now to demand: No water withdrawal, a fair hearing and comment process for all those affected, and protection for the Oquaga Creek!

To sign up in advance to speak at the May 11 Hearing contact paula.schmitt@drbc.state.nj.us or phone Ms. Schmitt at 609-883-9500 ext. 224 and say you want to speak on the XTO proposed Docket.

Public comment can be submitted now by email or hard mail and verbal comment can be made at the Public Hearing.  You can send the sample letter below with a click (http://delawareriverkeeper.org/act-now/urgent-details.aspx?Id=74) or write your own in the space provided.  But please act now as the time is very short!  This withdrawal must be stopped!

Carol Collier, Executive Director

Commission Members

Delaware River Basin Commission

P.O. BOX 7360

West Trenton, NJ 08628-0360

paula.schmitt@drbc.state.nj.us

Re: XTO Energy, Inc., D-2010-022-1

Dear Ms. Collier and Commission Members,

I oppose the approval of XTO Energy’s (ExxonMobil Corp.) application for a water withdrawal of 0.25 million gallons of water per day from the Oquaga Creek in Broome County, NY for gas drilling in Broome and Delaware Counties.

The DRBC is analyzing the impacts of gas drilling and has a drilling moratorium in place while developing gas regulations that could affect this withdrawal proposal; New York Department of Environmental Conservation is in the midst of conducting an environmental review of the gas development practices that this water would be used for.  It is untimely and irresponsible to approve this withdrawal while these deliberations are ongoing.

The people in Broome and Delaware Counties have an undeniable stake in this creek, its watershed and the region.  This withdrawal and the drilling it will support will indelibly change that area.  Yet you are refusing to hold a Hearing there. This is unacceptable and denies many people of their right to participate in the decision making process.  I request that you set a Public Hearing in the Oquaga Creek region, just as you had a local hearing for the West Branch Lackawaxen River withdrawal in 2010.  Further, you have only given 10 working days notice of your proposed approval; this deprives everyone, including the 15 million people who ultimately rely on the Delaware River for drinking water, of a meaningful public process.

The fresh water flows of this vibrant creek provide essential habitat for trout and other special species and the watershed provides groundwater supplies that could be impacted by this depletive withdrawal.  The Oquaga is an important recreational resource and feeds healthy cold water flows to the West Branch and main stem Delaware, supporting the exceptional water quality of the Delaware River.  Who says gas drilling is more important?

We respectfully request that this approval not be approved, that a meaningful public participation process be scheduled, that the Oquaga Creek be protected, and that the moratorium remain in place on gas drilling in the Delaware River Watershed.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Sincerely,

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