More than 40 environmental groups are opposing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to lift a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the state, following release of a Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) report that recommended the controversial natural gas drilling procedure be allowed. The coalition, which includes Food & Water Watch, Frack Action, Democracy for America, Friends of the Earth, Credo Action, Center for Heath Environment and Justice, Catskill Mountainkeeper and Citizen Action New York, recently presented a letter to the governor calling for a state-wide ban on fracking.
A moratorium on high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing expired in New York on July 1. While the Democratic-controlled State Assembly did vote to extend the moratorium for another year, a similar bill has gained no traction in the Senate. However, a de facto ban has been in place since 2008 while the DEC prepared a report on the environmental impacts of fracking.
That DEC fracking report was issued on July 1. The DEC is now recommending that horizontal, high-volume fracking be allowed in the most of the state, with the exception of the environmentally sensitive watersheds that supply New York City and Syracuse with drinking water. Such drilling would also be banned within primary aquifers and surface drilling prohibited in state parks and other state-owned land. Fracking on private land would be subject to â€œrigorous and effective controls,â€ a DEC statement said. Other restrictions would include rules prohibiting this type of drilling â€œwithin 500 feet of a private water well or domestic-use spring,â€ or within 2,000 feet of a public reservoir or drinking water supply without further study, a New York Times report said.
The DEC’s recommendations mean that approximately 85 percent of the Marcellus Shale in New York would be accessible to natural gas extraction under these recommendations, according to the DEC.
The 49-member coalition opposed to fracking in New York warns that thousands of natural gas wells that require billions of gallons of water will be drilled across New York if Cuomo goes along with the DEC. The spike in drilling activity would also cause scores of rural communities to become industrialized.
“The DEC’s recommendations on fracking will turn many areas of New York into sacrifice zones, allowing this toxic, polluting practice at the detriment of public health, the environment and rural economies,” Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said in a statement. “We urge Governor Cuomo to protect New York and its residents over the special interests of the oil and gas industry by banning hydraulic fracturing in New York State.”
“Governor Cuomo got it wrong when he said fracking can be done safely,” said Claire Sandberg, executive director of Frack Action. “Not only does this practice carry an unacceptable level of risk, but there is no rationale for drilling when we know that the promises of limitless energy and continuous economic growth are not borne out by the facts.”
The coalition’s statement also pointed out that more than 60 communities across the U.S. have already banned fracking.
New Yorkers opposed to fracking in the state still have time to convince the governor to ban the drilling. As we’ve reported previously, a 60-day public comment period on the DECâ€™s draft regulations begins next month. The DEC then will review those comments and make final revisions before issuing any new drilling permits.