New York Prepares to Allow Fracking
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is recommending the state end its ban on natural gas production through hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking) techniques. According to the DEC, high-volume fracking should be permitted on privately held lands “under rigorous and effective” state regulation.
High-volume fracking, according to DEC, should remain banned on state-owned land and privately owned property within the New York City and Syracuse watersheds. All fracking should remain banned around primary aquifers, DEC recommended.
Fracking Currently Banned
Hydraulic fracturing is currently banned throughout New York state. The moratorium was imposed by former Gov. David Paterson (D) last December and was set to expire later this summer. On June 6 the New York state Assembly passed a bill that would add a one-year extension to the fracking moratorium, but the Senate has yet to consider the extension.
Political analysts expect the legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to follow DEC’s new recommendations.
“These recommendations, if adopted in final form, would protect the state's environmentally sensitive areas while realizing the economic development and energy benefits of the state's natural gas resources,” DEC argued in a press statement accompanying its recommendations. “Approximately 85 percent of the Marcellus Shale would be accessible to natural gas extraction under these recommendations.”
"This report strikes the right balance between protecting our environment, watersheds, and drinking water and promoting economic development,” DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens said in the press statement.
DEC plans for a 60-day public comment period commencing in August. After the comment period, the agency can codify the recommendations into state law, although they are subject to override by the governor and the legislature.
The ban on high-volume fracking in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds represents a reversal of DEC’s 2009 draft report, which would have permitted drilling in those watersheds. DEC claims the New York and Syracuse watersheds deserve special protection because they are the only unfiltered supplies of municipal water in the state. The 2009 draft report would also have allowed high-volume fracturing around primary aquifers and on public forests, wildlife areas, and parkland.
DEC reports in preparing the new recommendations, the Department “engaged independent consultants to perform research, sought further information from the gas drilling industry, considered more than 13,000 public comments and studied other states' regulations and experience, including site visits by Commissioner Martens and DEC officials to Pennsylvania incident sites.”
James M. Taylor (email@example.com) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.