NY Puts A Hold on Fracking--Moratorium Bans All Fracking in NY Until May 2011
N.Y. Assembly Approves Fracking Moratorium
The New York State Assembly voted 93 to 43 Monday night to place a temporary moratorium on a controversial type of natural gas exploration that combines hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling. The goal is to give the state more time to address safety and environmental concerns.
The Senate passed a similar bill in August, and the legislation now awaits the signature of Gov. David Paterson.
The moratorium, which would be in effect until May 15, 2011, is aimed at new drilling permits for horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a type of natural gas exploration that requires the use of chemicals and vast amounts of water to release natural gas from rock. The drilling is highly controversial because of the risks it poses to groundwater.
But the effect of the moratorium is doubtful, given that the state Department of Environmental Conservation is already reviewing the potential environmental impact of the drilling in upstate New York, where natural gas companies are buying up leases and applying for permits to tap the Marcellus Shale, site of one of the largest natural gas fields in North America. The department is not likely to come up with regulations governing drilling on the Marcellus Shale before May, some state officials said.
Environmental groups that have pressed for the moratorium said the vote nonetheless sent the message that state environmental officials should revise their current draft regulations to respond to concerns raised about safety.
“This is the first time any state has ever taken this kind of action to protect the health and safety of its residents from the consequences of gas drilling,” said Kate Sinding, deputy director of the New York Urban Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It sends a powerful message that New Yorkers don’t want new fracking here unless the industry proves it can be done safely.”
The Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, a trade group, warned that the legislation as written could halt hydraulic fracturing that is already going on elsewhere in the state. (Those operations use vertical wells that are not as deep and use less water than the horizontal kind.) If that were to happen, the group said, it could jeopardize 5,000 industry jobs and the $1 million in annual revenue that the state collects from drilling permit fees. In 2009 the state issued 580 new drilling permits, the association said.
The group is urging Governor Paterson to veto the bill. “The governor must be made to understand the vast unintended consequences and act quickly to reject this needless legislation,” Brad Gill, executive director of the trade group, said in a statement.