The Newest Gold Rush: The Frenzy for Natural Gas Threatens New York's Water
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Local environmental organizations see their role as primarily raising public awareness. Most don't have the money or resources to file lawsuits and will rely on the bigger players -- the NRDC, Sierra Club and others -- to take legal action if necessary.
"I think our feeling really is that education is the key here," says Ferguson. "We don't have the resources to stop this either legally or financially or any other way. But we certainly can inform people of what's at stake, which is huge because many people don't understand what a bad outcome could be."
In the end, when the state begins to issue permits the choice will largely be up to individual landowners. It is not clear exactly how many leases have been singed thus far but some estimates are as high as 100,000. In the town of Hancock ("the gateway to the Delaware river") over 20,000 acres have been leased. And even though gas prices have plummeted, landmen are still canvassing the region.
"Given the industries druthers," Gillingham says, "they'd have a checkerboard across the whole landscape, which would industrialize the whole area." Gillingham learned of the Marcellus Shale just over a year ago when a geologist told him to google "Marcellus Shale Play." At that time it was only industry insiders and speculators who were talking about the issue. Google it today and you'll still turn up sites trumpeting the "Next Great Gas Play" or the "hottest natural gas play in North America." The industry is on the march. But the environmental community is ready to meet them head on.
"All the environmental groups are on the same page," says Samara Swanston legal counsel for the New York City Committee on Environmental Protection. "We cannot afford to let New York City's water be threatened by greedy gas drillers. This is a very serious matter and I don't think that anybody who rubber stamps this will get away unscathed."