Good for you… Where is ours?

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

Did you grow up in a family with more than one child?  For those who did, it isn’t a far reach to remember the rivalry (and feelings) that developed when your brother or sister got something that you thought you should have.  Unless you were raised differently than most of us, this was the reality of life back then, and though you may have rebelled inwardly, ultimately you had to accept things as they were, or perhaps plotted a payback so you’d be first in line for your shot at the prize the next go-round.

Let’s fast forward to the present where the stakes have escalated dramatically.  Our New York State neighbors to the east in the Skaneateles/Syracuse watershed have the benefit of a law (enacted in 2010) that requires any drilling interests to file an environmental impact statement that makes wildcat or questionable drilling practices (read this as both slickwater hydrofrack and vertical drilling) for natural gas to conduct an intensive study designed to insure that no damage to the watershed would occur.  The New York City watershed has the benefit of similar legislation.

Framers of the law cited that the residents in those areas are drinking unfiltered water and therefore these regions should be exempted from the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that essentially gave a “free pass” to natural gas, coal and energy mining interests from provisions of the Pure Waters and Pure Air legislation.

So… as one of the 20,000 people who drink the unfiltered, pure waters of Keuka Lake, and as one of the more than 200,000 citizens who drink the waters from the Finger Lakes watershed basin one has to say… What are we—-chopped liver?… and How about insuring our health and welfare too?!?

Not everyone is willing to risk losing clean water and air for the promise of short-term profits from drilling. New York City lobbied successfully for stricter case-by-case well-drilling permits for gas wells within the Catskills watershed, the source of its unfiltered supply. Syracuse received a similar level of protection for Skaneateles Lake. (The New York State Department of Health has jurisdiction over unfiltered public water supplies, and so can override DEC gas-well regulations.) The rest of us don’t have the same increased oversight of our public water supplies and private drinking water wells, which has prompted a number of counties, towns and cities to issue resolutions calling for a moratorium on shale gas drilling and fracking.

We commend Yates County legislators for their responsible initiative in “walking point” for its residents by enacting a resolution calling for “the same standards to Yates County and the Finger Lakes Watersheds (as in Syracuse and NYC.”)  But where is the follow-through from Albany?  Is the well-minded resolution but a letter that runs cold in this winter of transition to a new slate of gubernatorial appointees?

Where is the public outcry that demands the appropriate response that protects nearly a quarter million people in our watersheds from the devastation of waters that are contaminated irretrievably, as in the decimation we see throughout Pennsylvania in areas that have been hydrofracked?

We in the Finger Lakes are no less deserving of the purity of the waters that we now enjoy.  We expect and deserve parity on this issue.  It’s our turn.

Joe Hoff

Keuka Park