Brewery Ommegang weighs in on hydrofracking

Press Release

Brewery Ommegang has completed a close examination of the development of hydrofracking for natural gas in Otsego County. We reviewed detailed and extensive information provided by gas industry professionals, publications and supporters of hydrofracking who propose that drilling is safe, necessary, and will be an economic boost to Otsego County. We also reviewed information from gas industry professionals who are opponents of hydrofracking, as well as environmental and historic groups who contend that the permitting procedure is flawed, drilling is not safe, our currently pure water is endangered; and economic benefits will not be realized. We have endeavored to be thoroughly objective in our analysis and we will make available the information we have gathered to anyone who is interested in understanding both sides of the argument.

We have concluded that:

1. Gas companies have the right to drill without substantive local public review and both state and federal regulatory investigations into the risks of the process are mired in political delays. Land-lease development and proposed drilling in the region has already reached an alarming level without any meaningful regulatory control and with very limited public awareness of the issues. Over 42,974 acres have already been leased by gas-drilling companies or their land agents and active drilling projects are now starting up in Otsego County.

2. The relative contribution of natural gas from hydrofracking to either the economy or the energy needs of the region is minimal and development does not materially contribute to a sustainable national or regional energy policy.

3. The number of documented spills, blowouts, leaking wells and other environmental accidents is significant and the environmental and human consequences have been serious in a number of states, including TX, PA, WY, and WV. From our perspective, the most critical threat is contamination of the aquifers occurring directly above the Marcellus shale.

4. The taking of huge quantities of water needed for the hydrofracking process and the heavy impact on local infrastructure cannot be sustained in Otsego County. Effective technologies for the treatment of the millions of gallons of polluted processing waste do not exist and there are no locations for waste disposal in New York capable of supporting the proposed scale of drilling.

5. The plans for drilling present a strategic risk to the entire Otsego County water supply. The New York City watershed has already been determined to be protected and this represents the clearest evidence that NY state regulators already understand a potential risk. The plans for drilling also pose a direct and material threat to the Ommegang Brewery. We draw water for our beer from aquifers beneath our 140-acre farmstead located close to Cooperstown, NY, at the head of the Susquehanna watershed. Contamination of our currently pristine water supply would jeopardize our brewery business and even the threat of potential contamination could be sufficient for the future of our company to be at risk.

6. We also join others in concluding that industrial-scale hydrofracking in the beautiful rural upstate region will irreparably damage the essential qualities that make Otsego County an excellent place to live, raise families, farm and brew beer. We consider highly visible, potentially dangerous, industrial development as directly opposed to what our rural location offers the people who have chosen to make their lives here and the millions who choose to visit the region every year.

We therefore:
1. Call for an immediate moratorium and ban on both vertical and horizontal hydrofracking in Otsego County and NY State. It is not enough to protect only New York City residents, land and water. All upstate residents and their water, land and heritage deserve equal protection under law.

2. Call for the rejection of and rewriting of the NY State Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS)
by the incoming Cuomo administration. The current SGEIS is based on outdated and inadequate data and deeply flawed.

3. Support the transfer of control over hydrofracking in Otsego County and across New York to local authorities, allowing local communities to determine if they wish to accept the impact on their lives instead of those decisions being made at state and federal level.

Brewery Ommegang will:

1. Seek to defend the interests of our business, our employees and our community by actively campaigning for the prevention of hydrofracking in Otsego county and NY state by every available means, including legal action.

2. Provide practical support for Otsego 2000 as the principal focus for a coalition of many environmental and other citizen groups working to prevent development of hydrofracking in the region.

3. Bring together a coalition of other concerned upstate businesses in support of the Otsego 2000 campaign.

4. Petition Otsego County and Otsego County town officials to support an immediate local moratorium and a ban on hydrofracking, and petition our state government leaders, regulators and other agencies for the same at a statewide level.

Simon Thorpe, President/CEO of Brewery Ommegang said: “Ommegang believes that opposing development of hydrofracking is critical to the interests of our community, our people and our business. We are proud of our accomplishment in building a thriving, sustainable and environmentally conscious business in upstate New York. We are deeply concerned at the threat posed by development of drilling in the region and the risk to the purity of the water on which we depend, and which is a key reason we are located here. We are a company that enjoys a national reputation for super-premium quality beers produced in upstate New York and we hope that the state and local regulators attach value to what we do for the region in terms of employment and our representation of upstate New York in restaurants and grocery stores across the nation. We do not want our business’ future, our employees’ futures and our communities’ futures damaged or destroyed by water pollution, or compromised by the industrialization associated with hydrofracking for shale gas.”

Nicole Dillingham, Board President of Otsego 2000 said: “Brewery Ommegang is one of many businesses across the region that will be directly impacted if hydrofracking is allowed to continue in Otsego County and across New York State. Ommegang is a company that is highly important to this area and it does much to publicize Cooperstown and the values and qualities of upstate New York across the country. Anything that damages the supply of water to the brewery is clearly a significant threat to their business as much as it is to all of the people who live and work in Otsego County and the Susquehanna watershed. The brewery has received support and investment for its growth from regional and state agencies and has been a particularly successful example of a business that is flourishing and creating employment in the region despite the current economic difficulties. How much more could we all lose if polluted water is what upstate New York becomes known for?”

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