Streams

Governor Mulls Fracking Ban, as Anti-Gas Drilling Bill Advances

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

WNYC
Drilling for natural gas Drilling for natural gas (World Resources/flickr)

Governor Paterson says he hasn't decided whether to sign into a law a bill that would make New York the first state in the nation to temporarily ban a controversial natural gas drilling technique. Late Monday night, the Assembly in Albany voted by a wide margin to approve a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking.'

The Senate already passed the same measure last summer.

On WCNY-Albany, Governor Paterson said Tuesday "it is better not to reveal whether or not you're going to sign something until you have thoroughly researched it. And I'm not at that point yet. I did not know the Assembly was going to pass that bill." 

Paterson has ten days to sign the bill, or it becomes law automatically. 

Energy companies are now urging Governor Paterson to veto the legislation, arguing that it is so broadly worded, it would bring a halt to virtually all gas drilling in the state.

"I sell gas directly to Kraft Foods in Avalon, New York. If I can't meet their supply, I can no longer supply them with gas," said John Holko, President of Lenape Resources in Alexander, NY. Holko has written to Governor Paterson, saying he is seriously considering moving his company out of state.

"This bill was written to say 'we, New York State, the Assembly and the Senate want you out of New York. Go Away,'" Holko said.

Supporters of the legislation are doubtful the Senate could muster enough votes to override a veto.

Fracking involves blasting water, sand and chemicals thousands of feet underground to free up natural gas deposits. In other states, the technique has been linked to spills and explosions, and it's under study by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

While fracking is widely used, safety concerns center on the large volume of water needed to extract gas from so-called "unconventional" geologic formations, like the Marcellus Shale. The Marcellus stretches from the Catskills to eastern Ohio, and has been estimated to hold enough gas to meet the nation's total electricity demand for several years. But conditions in the Marcellus are more challenging for drillers than in "conventional" gas fields.

There is currently no fracking activity in New York.

The halls of the Assembly in Albany were filled with passionate voices Monday night, as members debated an issue that stirs strong emotions on both sides. 

"What we're saying by this bill is that we would rather send our young men and women to places like Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia to die in the desert so that we can have the energy from those countries, rather than to drill gas wells right here in New York State," said Assemblyman William Parment (D-Chautauqua County).

Ultimately, the bill passed by large margin - 93 to 43.

Environmentalists were quick to praise the Assembly.

"New York has shown the country that Americans have a right to stand up to big oil and gas companies," said Kate Sinding of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "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."

If enacted, the fracking ban will last until May 2011, giving Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo time to formulate his administration's policy on the issue.

This article was updated Tuesday evening.

Tags:

More in:

The Morning Brief

Enter your email address and we’ll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.

Comments [5]

Marth W. from NY

Beautiful upstate New York....goodbye tourism, brewers, farms, healthy air and water...it was nice while it lasted. What is this world coming to? It is a shame that our government is even allowed to permit such a process as fracking.

Dec. 03 2010 10:17 PM
Marth W. from NY

Beautiful upstate New York....goodbye tourism, brewers, farms, healthy air and water...it was nice while it lasted. What is this world coming to? It is a shame that our government is even allowed to permit such a process as fracking.

Dec. 03 2010 10:16 PM
Betty Lou Kishler from Chaumont, NY

We have done too much already to destroy clean air and clean water. We don't need
to do more. Chaney made it so the products used do not have to be revealed so that his company Haliburton could do whatever they want to destroy our Mother Earth. Stop this fracking. It destroys water and when water is destroyed, the planet will be destroyed. What will we drink?

Dec. 02 2010 08:15 AM
Dean Lowry from Binghampton, New York

People so commonly use words like "Big Oil" to attack an entire industry that, in good faith, continues to invest (and often at great risk) capital to develop America's evergy reserves in an attempt to regain our independence from foreign countries. In July 2008, my company, LLAMA Horizontal Drilling Technologies, Inc. purchased Oil & Gas Leases in Broome County, New York, with the intent of developing the Marcellus Shale. Unlike some other companies in the area, we paid top dollar ($3,000 per acre in areas where $2,411 had been the highest amount paid) with increased royalties which we considered fair and honest. Being a new "start up" company, we were initially funded by our own monies (we had additional funding partners that were forced to abondon the project after the moratorium was passed and the economic crisis soon followed). However in an attempt to meet the need of a few of our "Lessors" we went ahead and paid them lease bonuses (out of our own pockets) of in excess of $550,000. I believe that the landowners negotiated in good faith as did we and our overall investment in the area I am sure is well over $1,000,000. Am I to expect the State of New York to reimburse our "good faith" investments, as I expect the landowners would not have the means to do so? I want to be clear that Hydraulic Fracturing has been used over a million times in our country and although nothing is perfect, there is no evidence that it has any links to groundwater contamination. There are some cases where other drilling failures such as bad surface casing cement jobs and surface spillages have been linked to such cases, it has nothing to do with the issue at hand. This moratorium is the equivalent of shutting down all Fast Food Operations until that industry can prove that they do not contribute to obescity or eventually diabetes or banning the production of alcoholic beverages (they use a lot of water) until the prove it doesn't lead to liver disease. I, like many landowners in the southern tier of New York cannot afford the cost of these delays that those who have nothing to win or lose keep pushing for. Just food for thought...

Dec. 01 2010 01:51 PM
KeepItSimple

>Energy companies are now urging Governor Paterson to veto the legislation, arguing that it is so broadly worded, it would bring a halt to virtually all gas drilling in the state.

Not really---that's gas industry Chicken LIttle talking points---but what a great idea! We also need to rescind *existing* leases using eminent domain. This law---where the government can appropriate private property---has been used countless times in the energy industry's favor . . . time to use it in favor of the environment and victimized landowners. (It was used, incidentally, to take the entire city of Centralia PA as a result of a mine fire burning beneath the borough since 1962. It’s certainly justified to use it to*prevent* ecological disasters.)

Dec. 01 2010 09:49 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Sponsored

Latest Newscast

 

 

Support

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public

Feeds

Supported by