New York City’s water supply is our most important asset, providing clean drinking water to 50 percent of the state’s residents. Thanks to continued efforts to keep the watershed pollution free, our water does not currently need to be filtered. But if the federal or state government found our water to need filtration, city water ratepayers would be forced to construct a new facility that could cost us over $10 billion dollars. For all these reasons, proposals for industrial gas drilling in our watershed raise very serious concerns.

The draft environmental impact statement issued today by the State Department of Environmental Conservation starts a process of evaluating those concerns, and we look forward to closely reviewing their findings. But based on what we currently know, we remain skeptical that the protective measures go far enough to protect the largest municipal drinking water supply in the nation.

We have already heard reports from Pennsylvania about the negative consequences of gas drilling on water resources in that state. In New York, we must continue our efforts to prevent pollution before it occurs, not wait until costly cleanups become necessary. And, as the New York City Department of Environmental Protection has recently indicated, the burden must be on the gas drilling industry to prove that their gas extraction and development activities could be done safely and without threatening New York City’s irreplaceable drinking water resources.

We also think that the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act should be amended so that natural gas drilling using hydrofracking, would be included among those activities that are closely regulated in order to maintain water quality throughout our nation. We also welcome comments and will be advocating for a hearing to take place in New York City.

History has shown us the consequences of putting the acquisition of fossil fuels ahead of environmental concerns. We simply cannot afford to jeopardize the health and financial well being of New Yorkers by allowing the natural gas industry to undertake large-scale development in the Catskill and Delaware watershed; the assurance of clean, safe and reasonably priced drinking water for millions must take precedence over the desires of the gas industry to drill in areas whose protection is necessary to safeguard our public water supply for future generations of New Yorkers.