New York Commissioner Says Gas Spills Not Significant

Published February 1, 2010

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alexander “Pete” Grannis is challenging a report by the environmental activist group Toxics Targeting calling attention to an alleged 270 natural gas spills in the state since 1979.

Grannis, a former Democratic State Assemblyman, says the Toxics Targeting report misrepresents many of the alleged natural gas spills and presents an erroneous impression natural gas production in the state is environmentally harmful.

Drilling Spills Are Rare
“Only 10 of the 270 incidents occurred during well drilling activity,” wrote Grannis in a letter to State Assemblyman William Parment (D-North Harmony), who asked Grannis about the Toxics Targeting report.

“To put this into context, about 10,400 wells regulated under Article 23 of the Environmental Conservation Law have been drilled in New York since January 1, 1979,” observed Grannis.

Public Relations vs. Facts
Grannis argued Toxics Targeting engaged in a public relations campaign to make the small number of spills appear more problematic than it really is.

“The suggestion that there is a significant volume of gas drilling incidents that calls into question the effectiveness of state oversight is not borne out by facts. There is always a danger in statistics that until you drill down (so to speak), they may give a wrong impression. … 270 incidents do not indicate a significant problem,” Grannis wrote.

“When those incidents are more closely examined, it turns out that only a handful of them actually involved gas drilling and that only a single incident led to methane migration, it is clear that there is no systemic problem and no basis for the conclusion that DEC’s regulatory program is anything other than successful,” Grannis explained.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.