New York Governor Says Fracking Must Be Proven Safe

The Governor of New York said last week that hydraulic fracturing will not occur in the state’s Marcellus shale region unless it can be proven that the drilling procedure will not pollute water supplies. As we’ve reported previously, permits for fracturing operation in the state have been on hold for two years while regulators complete an environmental review, which is expected to be completed this year.

Hydraulic fracturing is now used in about 90 percent of US gas and oil wells. Also known as fracking, this processinvolves injecting water, sand, and a cocktail of chemicals at high pressure into rock formations thousands of feet below the surface.

Critics of fracking have long been concerned about the chemicals used in the process. Because the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, shale gas drillers don’t have to disclose what chemicals they use. According to the Environmental Working Group, fracking has already been linked to drinking water contamination and property damage in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming.

In New York, hydraulic fracturing has been particularly controversial. The state’s Marcellus shale region encompasses the entire Catskills watershed that provides New York City with all of its drinking water. People there are worried that drilling could pollute the watershed.

In an interview Friday with Syracuse radio station WSYR Gov. David Paterson said the drilling controversy was a “clash between a very lucrative profit-making opportunity and a very serious public safety hazard.” He promised no new drilling permits would be granted until there is “overwhelming evidence that nothing will happen” to water supplies.

Earlier this month, the New York State Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill that would place a moratorium on granting new drilling permits in the state until May 2011. The bill still has to be voted on the state assembly before it becomes law.

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