New York State’s Environmental Regs — Danger Ahead!

Dairy Farmers

Corn Farmers

Organic Farmers

Maple Syrup Producers

Gas Drilling Checklist #1

(first in a series)

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)

Draft Regulations Released November 29, 2012

Note: Over 204,000 public comments on regs submitted Jan. 11, 2013


The DEC permits a well pad 500 feet from a water well, domestic supply spring or water well or spring used as a water supply used for livestock or crops.

–Section 560.4


*A well pad may be as close as 500 feet from a residential water well, domestic supply spring or water well or spring used as a water supply for livestock or crops; an inhabited dwelling or place of assembly; the boundary of a primary aquifer.

*A well pad may be as close as 2,000 feet from a public water supply, public water supply reservoir, natural lake or man-made impoundment.

These setbacks apply only to the well pads on the surface, not to the underground wellbores.  Horizontal drilling underneath both kinds of aquifers is allowed.  Drilling under lakes and rivers is also allowed.  The regulations do not require monitoring water wells for contamination.

–Section 560 560.4 Setbacks and Section 560.4(a)(1 and 3-5)


In the DEC’s revised regulations, there are virtually no protections of any kind for surface water.  Beef cattle and dairy cows typically obtain their water from surface sources: creeks, streams, ponds, and pasture run-off.  There are no setbacks for them. Nor for other free-range farm animals.  Nor for farms that water livestock or irrigate crops from creeks, streams, lakes, and ponds.

There are no setbacks for pastures, fields, vineyards, or orchards.  There are no setbacks for paddocks, feeding pens, chicken coops, stables, silos, greenhouses, milking parlors, or barns.  There are no setbacks for food processing activities, including slaughterhouses, cider houses, maple sugar shacks, sorting and packing buildings, canneries, creameries, granaries, wineries, breweries, mills, or warehouses where produce is chilled before shipping.


The regulations do not prohibit drilling and fracking operations from occurring immediately adjacent to any of the above nor do they prohibit drilling and fracking from occurring UNDER any of the above.  Horizontal fracking operations send lateral wellbores that radiate out for a mile or more, like spokes on a giant subterranean bicycle wheel.



Fracking can cause or contribute to methane migration, which occurs when stray gas travels along naturally occurring fissures and fractures under the earth, through orphaned and abandoned wells, or along cracks in well casings.  As this gas seeps up to the surface, it can collect in water wells and buildings.


Methane seepage in barns full of dust, hay, and tanks of fuel is especially dangerous, given the many and varied spark-producing activities carried on there. Barn fires often result in complete loss—destroying livestock, equipment, and dairying infrastructure (milk lines, cooling tanks, etc.).


            In states where fracking is already underway, pastures, creeks, and farm ponds have been contaminated by leaking tanks of fracking fluid, malfunctioning compressor stations, and spills of fracking wastewater.  Sickened livestock include cattle and goats, as documented in 2012 study of 24 farms in six states.  Among cattle raised in proximity to wells or exposed to fracking wastewater, farmers report difficulty breeding and an increase in birth defects.  Exposed animals living in areas that have tested positive for air, water, and soil contamination have found their way into the food system, although the extent of this problem is unknown.

See reference below:

Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health

Michelle Bamberger, Robert E. Oswald (January 2012)



*Radioactive brine can be spread on roads as a de-icing agent or from illegal dumping.  Radioactive wastewater can be discharged into rivers that serve as downstream drinking water sources, when crops are grown on contaminated soil, and when farm animals ingest radioactive deposits on plants.

Section 560.7(i)

Companies are required to test flowback water for radioactive agents upon removal of the tanks but not to track them or prevent their release into the environment as close as 500 feet from a house or from trucks hauling waste materials through the roads.  Radium 226 and 228 exhumed from deep within the earth can last for thousands of years.  There is no safe level of exposure to radiation.


            Chefs for the Marcellus, a group of 150 New York chefs and food professionals, actively opposes fracking in New York.  Brooklyn’s Park Slope Food Coop, which buys $3 million of upstate New York crops each year, has signaled that it will shun purchases of meat and produce from gas-producing areas.  New York is the third-largest producer of organic food in the United States and is the nation’s second biggest wine-producing state. It ranks third among states for overall milk production. Dairy cows require 30 to 40 gallons of water a day to produce good quality milk.  Cow’s milk is 90 percent water.


 Prepared by