Letter to the Council

December 13, 2009

To the Council:

Note: Click on the images to view them at actual size. To become an effective non-profit organization that is able to be self-supporting, we need to discuss and decide what sorts of initiatives and programs the Council will support. Simply saying that we all want peace is not enough.

Basic idea for the Home Page

About Us page

Our Programs page

Our Mission page

You’ll note that on the Our Programs page that I’ve listed several ideas. The first, the Clean Water Project, would be directed toward obtaining between 10,000 to 100,000 FirstNeed water filters from General Ecology, the best of their kind. Each FirstNeed water filter can effectively remove bacterial pathogens, viruses, chemicals and pesticides from 150 gallons of even the most contaminated water, providing clean water for many people. The filters can then be backwashed with a bleach solution and be used again, before eventually needing to be replaced.

We could distribute these water filters in concert with Phil Sauers’s Water Not Weapons organization, Pierre Leroy’s Haitian People’s Support Project and the Clinton Foundation, to the Haitian communities where potable water is a scarce commodity—and many people die from contaminated water, not just in Haiti, but around the world. Without water, there is no life—nearly 30,000 people die daily because of lack of access to clean water. Without water, there can be no peace. This would be a worthwhile effort for the Council to pursue. A hundred-thousand of these filters could provide clean water for up to 500,000 people for a year.

You’ll also note that the Student Sponsorship Program on the Our Programs page. It would be possible to send an area student abroad in partnership with Cross Cultural Solutions, a non-profit organization working for the benefit of the poor in 12 different countries around the world. We’d need to work out the details in regards to how best promote this, but CSS spends 91 percent of funds on their programs. This is the same ratio I’d like to see for the Woodstock Council.

The Council could get donations for this purpose. CCS volunteers make meaningful contributions, working side-by-side with local people and sharing in the goals of a community that warmly welcomes them.

The cost to sponsor sending a volunteer abroad (2 to 12 weeks)—ranges from US $2,784 upwards. Volunteers gain college credits through participation in the program.

Cross-Cultural Solutions has volunteer programs in Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Morocco, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania and Thailand.

The other programs listed are starting points; I’m sure that you all have ideas about what would be most effective. The World Peace Concerts is Jack’s idea, and he’ll tell you what his plans are in this regard. The main point, though, is that we have to have unique and effective programs if we are to gain people’s interest and donations.

I’ve also sent some banner ads and buttons; these would appear on targeted websites that fit the demographic model for potential donors and members. This is a low-cost and effective means of advertising.

Button Web Ad

The website pages I’ve sent are just a rough idea of how the site might look, obviously, there will be many sub-pages, and hundreds of hours of work required to make this a reality. Please note that anyone can register and sign in, but the Join button at the lower left will take the user to a secure e-commerce page; I suggest that the cost of membership be $10.00; and I think the Council should put this up for a vote tonight.

These are my thoughts, and I thank you for allowing me to share them with you.

Peace and Love,

Cameron Williams


More important news from Catskill Mountainkeeper

November 16, 2009
Public awareness is increasing, the sentiment against gas drilling is growing, but even in light of new revelations about the potential catastrophic consequences of gas drilling, the New York DEC and the gas industry are still intent on implementing a seriously flawed plan.  Until there is a plan that clearly provides the adequate protection for the people, animals and land of New York State, Catskill Mountainkeeper will use every opportunity to advocate that – Drilling Isn’t Safe! (download an informational PDF here)

On Tuesday night N
ovember 10th the DEC held its second public hearing at Stuyvesant High School in New York City to get public comments on the Draft Supplemental Plan (the Draft) that was issued on September 30, 2009. It was attended by a very large, overwhelmingly anti-gas drilling crowd estimated at over 500. More than 170 speakers signed up and when they shut the doors at around 11:00 PM, more than half had still not had a chance to speak.

To chants of “Kill the Drill” and “Drilling Isn’t Safe” speaker after speaker spoke about the threats of gas drilling to New York.  At this sometimes raucous meeting, the main focus was on the threat to the drinking water of New York City and speakers including Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Congressman Nadler and former Congresswoman and State Comptroller Liz Holtzman called for a ban on drilling in the New York City Watershed.

Hundreds of people wore Catskill Mountainkeeper “Drilling Isn’t Safe” buttons.  Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Ramsay Adams and Wes Gillingham acknowledged city residents’ appropriate concerndrilling isn't safe buttons about the potential contamination of their drinking water, but said that the lack of a credible plan from the DEC makes this a statewide, not just a city issue and that the health of all people in New York State must not be risked to bridge the state’s budget gap.

They identified numerous problems with the Draft and referred to this week’s headlines that revealed the presence of extremely high amounts of radioactive substances in drilling wastewater and the incidence of over 270 gas drilling accidents in New York State since 1979 – (see more information on these stories below).  Ramsay Adams said, “We only found out this week what the DEC knew in July when they were preparing the Draft Supplemental Report, that sample wastewater from New York State wells contain levels of radiation that are many times higher than that of other states and acceptable levels. This information alone demands that we have a longer comment period to analyze and understand what looks like catastrophic ramifications.”

Speakers from all walks of life repeatedly made points about the lack of provision for cumulative effect, the lack of adequate plans for wastewater, the heavy and unjust burden that will be placed upon local towns and counties, the total lack of a health impact statement and many other weaknesses in the Draft.

On Thursday November 12 the DEC held it’s 3rd public meeting in Chenango County.  Over 1000 people attended and the message was clear that the people from upstate New York are deeply concerned about the impacts of natural gas drilling.  Watch Wes Gillingham featured on Binghamton’s Fox 40 Nightly News story about the Chenango event here:

Wes on Fox 40

Contrary to the DEC’s assertions that existing regulations on gas drilling are fine, Walter Hang, President of Toxic Targeting, identified 270 cases documenting wastewater spills, well contamination, explosions, methane migration and ecological damage related to gas production in the state since 1979.  The list was compiled using the Department of Environmental Conservation’s own hazard substances spills database.

Hang said his company publicly released the list to show that regulation of the state’s gas industry is “fundamentally inadequate.”

“All we wanted to do is test the fundamental assessment the DEC often makes: existing regulations are just fine,” he said. By Hang’s assessment, they are a long way from fine. Only 60 of the 270 cases were actually caught by DEC regulators. Many were called in by residents, public safety officials, affected parties or “people who just stumbled over them,” he said.

The complaints are related to traditional wells drilled through the decades, most of them in the Southern Tier and western New York.

More than three-quarters of oil and gas problems on the spills database were caught by somebody other than a DEC staff member, according to Hang’s assessment. That is clear evidence the Division of Mineral Resources — with about 17 inspectors — lacks the manpower to oversee traditional well development, let alone the tremendous number of wells that are projected for the Marcellus or their complication. Hang argues that the entire regulatory process needs to be rebuilt from scratch.

In an article first published in ProPublica and then in the Albany Times Union on November 9, 2009, Abrahm Lustgarten reported that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation analyzed 13 samples of wastewater brought up thousands of feet to the surface from drilling and found that they contain levels of radium-226, a derivative of uranium, as high as 267 times the limit safe for discharge into the environment and thousands of times the limit safe for people to drink.

While New York’s Health Department raised concerns about these water samples in a confidential letter to the DEC in July, the agency did not  address radioactivity levels in their September 30, 2009 Draft Report.

“Handling and disposal of this wastewater could be a public health concern,” DOH officials said in the letter, which was obtained by ProPublica. The letter warned that the state may have difficulty disposing of the drilling waste, that thorough testing will be needed at water treatment plants, and that workers may need to be monitored for radiation much as they might be at nuclear facilities.

It is not clear if there are any treatment plants in New York that are capable of handling such material. Asked for names of plants capable of removing the radioactive materials, DEC spokesman Yancey Roy said “there are currently no facilities specifically designated for treating them.” The state would review disposal plans submitted by drilling companies, but has not yet received any, he said. “We do not know what treatment options are being considered or how effective NORM removal will be.”

What scientists call naturally occurring radioactive materials — known by the acronym NORM — are common in oil and gas drilling waste, and especially in brine, the dirty water that has been soaking in the shale for many centuries. Radium, a potent carcinogen, is among the most dangerous of these metals because it gives off radon gas and takes 1,600 years to decay. The tests taken so far suggest the amount of radioactive material measured in New York is far higher than in many other places.

The Draft said the DEC could not calculate how much radioactivity people may be exposed to, even though such calculations are routinely completed by scientists studying radiation exposure and should be very easy to do, according to Charley Yu, who runs a national dose modeling program for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Yet the Draft concluded radiation levels were very low and the wastewater does not present a risk to workers. DEC officials declined to explain their reasoning for this conclusion.

The Draft said radioactive waste licensing and special disposal processes may be required, but said more study is needed before the DEC can lay out precise plans to deal with the waste.

It would be a serious health threat and irresponsible in the extreme for the DEC to consider moving forward until they can establish a satisfactory plan to handle wastewater containing the dramatically increased level of NORMS that drilling in the Marcellus will likely produce.

Although our campaign, and the campaigns of others are raising awareness, our efforts will be worthless unless those who become aware take action.  If you believe as we do that the DEC should not approve gas drilling in New York State until it can be proven that it can be done safely, the moment to act is now.

  • Click here to send an email directly to Governor Patterson to tell him what you think. (For suggested text for the letter, click here.)

  • Email and call your elected member of congress, your US Senator, your State senator and assemblyperson.  Click here to find out who your representative are and how to contact them
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper
  • Pass this alert on to friends and family so they can take action
    Forward this email

Testify at a Public Meeting – see list below:  Click here for background information – “15 Reasons Why the Draft Needs to be Rewritten”

Wednesday, November 18, Corning East High School Auditorium, 201 Cantigny Street, Corning, NY 14830

Thursday, November 19, State Theater, 107 W. State Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
(the hearings are free and open to the public – to make a comment arrive at 5:30 to register)

Every remaining day of the public comment period is precious time. If you’ve been reading our alerts you know what will happen after it expires on December 31, 2009.  The DEC will go into hiding, they will rubberstamp the final plan, drilling will begin in 2010 and it will not be adequately monitored and controlled.

If you support the efforts of Catskill Mountainkeeper as a leader of this critical fight – tell us you do – by making a donation today.  Donations of any amount will help. Give more if you can. To donate, please click on the link below.

Donate Now
For more information about the gas drilling threat, please go to our website or you can call our office at 845.482.5400

Important update—Marcellus Shale

October 28, 2009

New York City watershedIn a surprising announcement, the Chesapeake Energy Corporation announced yesterday that it will not drill on existing leases it holds in the New York City watershed, nor will it purchase any new leases within the watershed. Whether or not other gas companies will follow their lead remains to be seen, and we are not yet certain if other companies’ drilling plans will proceed in the Delaware and Hudson watershed areas of the Marcellus Shale that are not part of the New York City watershed—there are conceivably areas in Albany, Greene, Schoharie, Otsego, Sullivan and Orange counties where drilling may still be planned. Chesapeake Energy also announced that they do plan to drill in other areas of the Marcellus Shale, so we need to watch this closely. There are important aquifers and fisheries downstream that are not necessarily part of the New York City Watershed.

Public hearings are scheduled for this evening— Meeting Location:
Loch Sheldrake – Sullivan County Community College E Building,
Seelig Theatre; 112 College Rd, Loch Sheldrake, NY 12759
Doors will open at 6:00 PM for individual questions and speaker sign up.
Public comment session will start at 7:00 PM.

Future Public Hearings:
11/10/2009 – New York City – Stuyvesant High School High School Auditorium, 345 Chambers St, New York, NY 10282 
11/12/2009 – Chenango Bridge – Chenango Valley High School High School Auditorium, 221 Chenango Bridge Rd, Chenango Bridge, NY 13901 
TBD – Elmira/Corning

Please attend one of these meetings if possible, and join Riverkeeper and Catskill Mountainkeeper to help them with their valuable work.

More important news from Catskill Mountainkeeper

October 25, 2009

Next Wednesday, October 28th, the New York State DEC will hold its first public hearing on its Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Study on Gas Drilling that was issued on September 30, 2009. This report spells out the conditions under which gas drilling may commence.

This is a critical opportunity for all residents and lovers of the Catskills to make comments for the record on the information in the report.

Please join us in registering your serious concerns about the inability of the provisions of the report to protect you and your fellow New York State residents. The media, DEC officials and your elected representatives will be there gauging how much you care.

Click here for the Mountainkeeper Natural Gas Fact Sheet
Click here to view the 800+ page Draft Supplemental from DEC (PDF)

Tell them that you want:

  • An extension on the 60 day comment period to give the public, the media and experts adequate time to learn the ramifications of this 800+ page report and a fair chance to state their case
  • A cumulative impact requirement
  • A comprehensive wastewater plan that takes into consideration our state’s aging and inadequate wastewater capabilities
  • A plan to assure that local officials will have the staffing and training to monitor and respond to accidents
  • A thorough and comprehensive study of the cumulative impacts on on lands within the blue line of the Catskill Park and the New York City Watershed
  • Answers about why the gas companies won’t be on the hook when there are accidents and environmental damage
  • Adequate provisions that protect us from the depletion of our local water supply by the drilling companies
  • The necessary protection of our roads and personal land from excessive truck traffic, toxic and radioactive loads, open pit capture ponds and multistory rigs

Meeting Location:

Loch Sheldrake – Sullivan County Community College E Building, Seelig Theatre; 112 College Rd, Loch Sheldrake, NY 12759
Doors will open at 6:00 PM for individual questions and speaker sign up.
Public comment session will start at 7:00 PM.

Future Public Hearings:

11/10/2009 – New York City – Stuyvesant High School High School Auditorium, 345 Chambers St, New York, NY 10282
11/12/2009 – Chenango Bridge – Chenango Valley High School High School Auditorium, 221 Chenango Bridge Rd, Chenango Bridge, NY 13901
TBD – Elmira/Corning


Catskill Mountainkeeper has been attending meetings throughout New York State to educate government officials and the public about the dangers of natural gas drilling.

On Thursday October 15th Wes Gillingham, Program Director of Catskill Mountainkeeper was one of 25 people who testified at a hearing held by the New York State Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee on proposed gas drilling.  He testified that the report puts no limitation on the total number of gas wells that could be developed within a specific area and stipulates that each drilling operation be evaluated as a single event. Wes said, “The whole cumulative impact is a glaring problem. Each company knows how much land they’ve leased. One well leads to another and another. And how will the state control the impact of all that waste?”

According to Gillingham “Mountainkeeper is fully committed to making sure that everyone who lives, works and recreates in the Catskill region has the opportunity to learn what the real threat of gas drilling will be on their home, their health and their region. The DEC study is just plain inadequate and THAT message has to be clearly delivered publicly to as many people as possible.”


The New York State DEC report has stipulated a 60 day period during which the public can submit comments on what they proposed.  Many groups, including Catskill Mountainkeeper have been advocating to extend this period by at least 60 days.  Ramsay Adams, of Catskill Mountainkeeper said, “It is critically important that New Yorkers have sufficient time to read and digest this 800 page report and that there is adequate time for public discourse about the marked impact this will have on their lives.”

Now it appears as if our legislators have heard and are requesting that this period be extended.  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and the Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer, have asked the state for extensive public hearings. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has commissioned an independent scientific study of the risks to the watershed.

As the New York Times wrote in its editorial on October 16, 2009 – “A fair review will not be possible unless the state’s absurdly quick Nov. 30 deadline for public comment is extended. The mayor’s study will not even be completed until mid-December. It is dangerously irresponsible to rush this decision.”  In addition, many important newspapers are demanding that the DEC extend the comment period to 120 days.  These include the Albany Times Record, Rochester City Newspaper, the River Reporter and the Phoenicia Times.

Click here to read some of the recent news stories

Please click here to sign a petition asking the DEC to extend the comment period.

It has become all too clear that the fight against gas drilling has become a marathon.  In order to continue to work on behalf of the Catskills we need your support.

Help Mountainkeeper lead the fight.  Click here to make a secure online donation.

For more information about the gas drilling threat, please go to our website or you can call our office at 845.482.5400

Drilling in The Marcellus Shale

August 2, 2009

I’ve been trying to find the right words to link this issue to peace, but the words elude me, and the issue is too important, both locally and globally, to not be addressed immediately. I can say with confidence that wholesale despoilment of the environment is not in the least conducive to peace; countries that have experienced such high rates of despoliation, such as Haiti, Nigeria, and Pakistan, are some of the most troubled places on earth. Trading clean water for energy is a bad deal for all concerned but the exploiters. Here’s a video of a well being “fracked”, and here’s one of what sometimes happens at these sites.

The Marcellus Shale (Grey)

The Marcellus Shale (Grey)

The Marcellus Shale is a Devonian period geological formation that extends from Albany, New York, to Ohio and south, through part of New Jersey, and most of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Early estimates that the formation contained relatively small amounts of natural gas have been revised upward in recent years; in November 2008, Terry Engelder, a geosciences professor at Pennsylvania State University, changed his estimate, based upon examination of drilling samples, to 363 trillion cubic feet of recoverable resource, which would be enough to supply US consumption for at least fourteen years.

So that’s a good thing, even a great thing, you may be thinking. Natural gas burns cleanly, and we don’t have to import it. Think again. While we need to develop sustainable sources of energy, we find that extracting natural gas from shale is not an acceptable answer, especially not in watershed areas; it requires a process called hydraulic fracturing, variously referred to as “fracing”, “frac-ing”, or “fracking”; the method has been known since the 1940s, but has lately become more widely used. Hydraulic fracturing has been employed to extract gas from the Barnett shale in Texas, where it has caused documented problems with groundwater.

Millions of gallons of water, combined with surfactants, sand, plastic beads, and at least 55 chemicals are pumped deep into the ground at extremely high pressures, fracturing the rock to release the gas. All of that water eventually returns to the surface, or leaks into local aquifers, along with the pollutants. To compound the problem, Marcellus Shale deposits contain high levels of pyrite, uranium, and radon gas, all of which are toxic, and all of which would be released into the environment.

In 2005, Congress exempted this method of extraction, which most often uses horizontal drilling, from compliance with the Clean Water Act; and drilling companies claim that there is little danger of water contamination. Gee, where have we heard that before? And if there’s no danger, why was an exemption required?

The drilling companies want to keep the chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing a proprietary secret, even though 35 out of a list of 55 material safety data sheets (MSDS) obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram were chemicals known to be hazardous to humans, and three of the polymers used to thicken the fracturing fluid are known carcinogens.

Here’s a quote from an article on hydraulic fracturing by Mike Lee, published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on December 7, 2008: The health effects from other chemicals range from skin irritation to cancer. One chemical can cause “difficulty breathing, twitching, lung congestion, paralysis and coma.” That doesn’t sound too hazardous, does it?

Or how about this, from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: The COGCC has documented examples where improper construction of wells has polluted groundwater. We do know of at least one case where a nurse fell critically ill after treating a worker who spilled fracturing fluid on himself.

Verlyn Klinkenborg, columnist for The New York Times, published an excellent article on drilling in the Catskills last Monday, and the wonderful folks at Catskill Mountainkeeper are working hard to keep this dubious development out of the Catskills, so please join their organization and help them in their valuable work. We urge you all to write the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Governor, your Senator, Congressman, and local politicians demanding that the drilling not be permitted here.

Barbara J. Fiala, Broome County Executive, is one local politician in favor of the drilling, despite evidence that it may cause great harm to the environment. She may believe that the jobs the drilling may create outweigh the risks; we would point out that the gas companies typically bring crews with them, and create few local jobs. In any case, she, and other pro-drilling proponents are hard at work, urging the DEC to complete the supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (sGEIS); until that statement is released, no drilling can proceed. Public comments are an important part of the DEC’s process, so send them your comments today.

Oh, one last thing. The companies seeking drilling permits are, to the best of my knowledge: Chesapeake Energy, Chief Oil and Gas, Range Resources, and Rex Energy.

Sources: The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The New York Times, Wikipedia, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Mongabay.com, http://www.empirepage.com, http://mesacountydems.com, youtube.com, http://www.dec.ny.gov/