New York’s DEC putting fracking health regulations under further review, drilling delayed until 2013

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo stated this week that a proposed review of the health impact of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling in his state will not delay any proposed activity there.

Cuomo, according to a report from NorthCountryPublicRadio.org, told reporters that the plan by the state’s Dept. of Environmental Conservation should not be considered a delay. Instead, the governor said the revised health rules governing future fracking activity in the state will be “stronger” and “able to withstand a legal challenge.” At the same time, Cuomo admitted that the state likely will be involved in ongoing legal battles when and if it finally allows fracking drilling on private land in the future.

New York has been debating for nearly three years whether or not to allow fracking drilling on privately-leased land in the state. Its previous governor, David Patterson, held a moratorium in place for much of his term, allowing the DEC and other appropriate regulators enough time to conduct thorough reviews of the process and potential benefits and drawbacks to fracking there.

When Cuomo assumed power he lifted the moratorium and moved the state toward allowing fracking and the state’s regulatory reviews became more formalities than anything substantive the state would rely on to determine its feasibility there. Until now, environmental advocacy groups spearheaded by many concerned citizens have launched relatively successful campaigns to stall any fracking drilling activity. Nearly a dozen local municipalities have passed bans of their own that have been upheld in state courts and forced some would-be drillers to abandon plans to frack in New York.

The concerns over the safety – both environmental and health – of fracking drilling is certainly warranted. Just to the south in Pennsylvania, lax environmental and health regulations governing fracking drilling have led to a boom in the activity. While it has caused a spike in natural gas production, it has been the source of numerous problems for residents.

Fracking employs the use of a drill, fresh water, sand, and a mix of hundreds of chemicals that are ushered through an underground horizontal well until it all reaches a bed of shale rock. In New York and Pennsylvania, the expansive Marcellus shale formation could contain as much as $3 trillion in natural gas reserves, prompting companies to seek permits to explore for some of this energy.

Weak environmental and safety regulations have put a strain on local infrastructures as drilling companies have bombarded some small rural towns with a bevy of activity. Air is polluted and there is a fear that more drilling will create a strain in fresh water resources in the future. More importantly, many residents living closest to an active fracking well believe the drilling has caused their water wells to become polluted with the same chemicals and gases either used or released during the fracking process.

New York DEC’s decision to give further review to its proposed health regulations likely will push any new drilling in the state off until early next year, according to the report.

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