Fracking Foes Voice Opposition at New York City Hearing

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing pushed for a continuation of New York State’s de facto fracking ban during a hearing convened by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) yesterday in New York City. According to a Bloomberg News report, many of those who spoke at the hearing expressed concern that proposed natural gas drilling rules currently being considered by the state won’t be enough to protect the vital watershed that provides New York City with its drinking water from the harmful environmental impacts of fracking.

New York’s moratorium on natural gas drilling via high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing officially expired on July 1. But fracking won’t commence in the state until the DEC finalizes new drilling regulations. The DEC has recommended that fracking be allowed on most private lands in the state, with the exception of areas within 4,000 feet of the environmentally sensitive watersheds that supply New York City and Syracuse with drinking water. If the DEC’s recommendations are adopted, 85 percent of the Marcellus Shale in New York would be accessible to natural gas extraction via fracking.

Over the past month, the DEC has been holding public hearings on the regulations, and said yesterday that it would extend the period for public comment on the rules 30 days to January 11.

At yesterday’s hearing in Manhattan, opponents of fracking were vocal.

“There is no possible regulation strong enough that you could come up with to prevent that one accident,” State Senator Tony Avella, a Democrat who has introduced a bill to prohibit fracturing, or fracking, said during the proceedings, according to Reuters. “New York State should never consider this process.”

Other fracking opponents at the hearing included actress Debra Winger, actor Mark Ruffalo and Josh Fox, director of “Gasland,” an Academy Award-nominated documentary that starkly highlighted the dangers of fracking.

“The truth gets out and the gas industry is lying,” Fox said at a press conference before the hearing, according to Bloomberg. “It is political hubris to think that regulation will work here.”

Opponents pointed to nearby Pennsylvania, where major drilling companies, including Chesapeake Energy, have paid settlements after drinking water was polluted by fracking, Bloomberg said. But backers of fracking also pointed to Pennsylvania, maintaining its fracking boom has led to more jobs and tax revenue for the state.

“The state of Pennsylvania is eating our lunch,” Arthur Kremer, chairman of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, said after speaking at the hearing, according to Bloomberg. “It’s up to DEC to come up with the regulations that make it as foolproof as possible. It’s not fair for downstate people to impose their will on the people of upstate New York who want it and need it.”

But according to Avella, the dangers posed by fracking outweigh any benefits.

“You cannot survive if you contaminate the water,” Avella said. “And the potential for contamination just far outweighs the few jobs that will be created.”

New York Senator Bill Perkins, a Democrat, maintained that should fracking pollute the waterways that bring unfiltered drinking water to New York City, the city could be forced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to build a filtration plant.

“If the EPA orders the city to build a filtration plant, where will the estimated $20 billion come from?” Perkins said.

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