Let's be heard on this issue

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To The Editor:
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation released revised regulations dealing with exploration and extraction of natural gas on December 12. They are accepting public comments until 5 p.m. on January 11.

I support the exploration for these resources here in the Watershed, because of the considerable economic benefits it will provide (assuming there is enough gas or oil in the Catskills to make production worthwhile.) The regulations provide assurance that the work can be done without affecting our health and safety, and without damaging the water supply. They also limit the  noise and light disruption in villages because drilling will only be permitted away from populated areas. And since one drill site can handle two square miles from just a two- to four-acre location, the number of drill sites will be limited. The exploration component is of limited duration, often six months from start to finish. The visual impact of wells and compressors that might remain is small and usually camouflaged by evergreen shrubs and trees. Yet, the proposed regulations still prohibit this activity in the Watershed counties, purportedly out of concern that it will require New York City to filter the water.

It is a bit late for that concern. Earlier this year, the City started filtering water from the Catskill and Delaware systems. The plant operates at Mt. Pleasant, in Westchester below the Kensico holding reservoir. It can handle 1.2 billion gallons per day - the daily consumption of the City. An Internet search will turn up this information, such as http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=nyc-uv-drinking-water-d.... The EPA is also requiring the City to increase chlorination of the water supply at the downstate facilities.

Together, the ultraviolet filtration and chlorination are being done to eliminate the risk of bacterial contamination, including that which can be found in excessive sediment in the water. This sedimentation risk is the reason DEC gave for prohibiting gas exploration here in the first place. Since filtration is a reality, why bother?

The economic benefits, together with reduced risk to the city (if it ever existed) because of filtration should make prohibition unnecessary. For landowners, the financial incentive is apparent. But let’s not lose sight of the jobs, many long lasting and high paying, that can come out of this development. Average annual salaries for exploration and production related positions are in excess of $80,000.

There are also secondary benefits as people who may be employed here for long but temporary periods need housing, food and all the things they spend on. Existing businesses can expect new customers. New businesses will open as our neighbors step up to meet the needs of the new arrivals. I encourage those who agree with me to post comments to the DEC regulations. We have lived struggling to build a thriving economy instead of a relative backwater for too long. Let’s not be left behind. This can be a game changer for us.

Of course, not everyone agrees with my position, and comments can be made regardless of viewpoint on this matter. But whether you agree or not, let’s be heard on this. The regulations can be found at http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/77353.html along with instructions about how to comment. DEC prefers clear, precise statements rather than vague complaints and polemics that don’t address specific aspects of the regulations.

Henry C. Blaufox,
Vega