New York Moves to Protect Allegany State Park from Drilling

New York’s Allegany State Park is off limits to oil and natural gas drillers, following the adoption of two pieces of legislation granting the 65,000-acre park broad new protections against energy exploration and drilling. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bills on Friday, as New York prepares to open up most of the state’s Marcellus shale region to <"">hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

According to a report from The Buffalo News, the new laws should squash plans by U.S. Energy Development Corp. of Getzville to sink five test wells in Allegany State Park. The driller announced the plans two years ago, claiming it had subsurface mineral rights beneath 2,800 acres in the Red House section of the park.

Allegany State Park is unique in New York in that private ownership of subsurface oil and gas rights were still maintained nearly 100 years ago when the state acquired the land, The Buffalo News said.

The legislation holds that any oil and gas claim not actively used within the past 20 years shall be considered “extinguished” and the rights reverted to the state. The second law gives the state parks department broad new powers over any effort to explore or drill in the park.

According to The Buffalo News, the legislation had broad support, even among those who want to expand oil and natural gas drilling in New York.

“I have lots of oil and gas wells in my district. I support oil and gas exploration … but I don’t feel that drilling is appropriate within the state parks,” said Sen. Catharine Young, an Olean Republican and co-sponsor of the bills.

New York’s moratorium on natural gas drilling via high-volume, horizontal fracking officially expired on July 1. The same day the ban expired, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a report recommending that fracking be allowed on most private lands in the state, with the exception of the environmentally sensitive watersheds that supply New York City and Syracuse with drinking water. Just this past Wednesday, the DEC issued a revised draft of proposed fracking regulations. 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.

The DEC has scheduled public hearings on the proposed fracking regulations for November 16 in Dansville, November 17 in Binghamton, November 29 in Sheldrake and November 30 in Manhattan.

Both Governor Cuomo and the DEC have faced a barrage of criticism over their plans to bring fracking to New York. Environmentalist claim the state’s rush to adopt the new regulations has obscured the true costs of fracking to infrastructure, public health, and the environment.

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