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DiNapoli urges caution on gas drilling


January 3, 2012

ALBANY, NY — In comments submitted on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on gas drilling, Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli has urged the state to adopt his proposal to create a Natural Gas Damage Recovery Fund. DiNapoli first proposed the fund in August.

The industry-supported fund would cover and help remediate damages caused by natural gas production, including high-volume hydraulic fracturing. It is modeled after New York’s Oil Spill Fund. “DEC’s revised environmental impact statement and regulations still fall short of addressing how the state would pay for clean-up costs and hold parties that caused the contamination responsible,” DiNapoli wrote.

In his comments, DiNapoli also presented his concerns about potential negative economic impacts of the development of shale deposits, including limitations on future land uses and sales due to the placement of gas wells. Because a large number of state residents rely on groundwater, DiNapoli called on the DEC to examine whether smaller hydraulic fracturing projects could pose a threat to sensitive resources and urged it to evaluate whether groundwater moving through aquifers contaminated by gas production could pose a threat to water quality in areas where high-volume hydraulic fracturing is banned.

Stay strong, New York, against anti-fracking activists

In ACSH’s recent publication, The Top Ten Unfounded Health Scares of 2011, http://www.acsh.org/news/newsID.1969/news_detail.asp hydraulic fracturing (better known as fracking) made the list. Alhough our report debunked the various unfounded accusations that this method of natural gas extraction has received, it seems as though The New York Times failed to get the message. In fact, an article in today’s paper continues to give credence to the bogus health claims promulgated by activist environmental groups that include some of our old favorites, like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club, who are working diligently to enact a ban on fracking in New York State.

Currently, the State Department of Environmental Conservation is reviewing proposed drilling regulations to guide gas development, especially in the Marcellus Shale — a geologic formation extending deep underground from Ohio to Pennsylvania and southern New York. This formation contains up to 489 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. For the past four years, however, there has been a moratorium on new gas drilling in New York State, thanks to hyper-precautionary fears expressed by environmental groups — even though fracking would create thousands of jobs and decrease our nation’s dependency on foreign oil imports.

But while a large grassroots movement is calling on the state to end fracking, for fear that chemicals associated with the process could contaminate drinking water supplies, it is unlikely that Governor Andrew Cuomo will ban it — especially since the process is labor-intensive and has the potential to revive many of the economically depressed regions of the state.

ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross aptly points out that, while New York lawmakers are twiddling their thumbs as they deliberate over natural gas drilling, workers on the other side of the state border, in Pennsylvania, where fracking has gone full speed ahead, have significantly raised their economic status due to the thousands of new jobs drilling has created there. “Not only is fracking quite safe, but it boosts jobs too,” says Dr. Ross. “Unfortunately, you won’t be reading in The Times about how this practice has safely been in use for decades with no evidence of water contamination or other environmental degradations. Though I’m sure accidents have occurred in the past and regulatory oversight is needed, fracking concerns do not outweigh the vast benefits. Attempts to ban natural gas drilling are just another effort by the so-called environmental movement to use the precautionary principle to stand in the way of progress.”

“The environmental consequences of fracking must be compared to those from other combustible sources of energy, all of which produce more pollution,” ACSH’S Dr. Josh Bloom points out. “It wasn’t long ago that natural gas was touted as being cleaner and safer than coal, oil, and nuclear power. So why the uproar now?”