Ilya Marritz covers business for WNYC.
City Demands Additional Buffer Around Water Tunnels in Gas Drilling Debate
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
State officials must now have to sift through tens of thousands of comments on New York’s plans for regulation of high volume hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking with the closure of public comment period on Thursday.
The Department of Environmental Conservation will review the comments and respond to the issues raised before it finalizes rules and issues permits for the controversial natural gas drilling technique.
What New York City Recommends:
- The city is applauding DEC's decision to ban fracking within the New York City watershed (around 1,900 square miles), and 4,000 feet surrounding the watershed, the source of 100 percent of the city's drinking water.
- However, the watershed drilling ban is not sufficient to protect the resource, the city says. Even a small earthquake could cause significant damage to un-reinforced water tunnels.
- New York City is requesting a seven-mile "infrastructure exclusion zone" around critical tunnels and aqueducts, and an additional "enhanced protection zone" where drilling would effectively require the permission of the city, ranging from two to seven miles beyond that.
- The net effect of New York City's request would be to place an additional 277 square miles off limits to drilling, or 1.5 percent of New York state shale gas deposits.
Click here to read New York City's comments
What the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York (IOGA-NY) Recommends:
- IOGA represents a wide array of businesses involved in gas drilling, and is highly critical of regulators' "worst case scenario" view of the risks to air and water. Instead, IOGA suggests DEC write regulations that respond to the "realistic" challenges posed by fracking.
- The DEC has proposed setbacks around critical habitats and water resources, leaving an estimated 80 percent of New York's Marcellus Shale resources available. But IOGA said the setbacks would make some adjacent areas impossible to develop, leaving just 40 to 50 percent of the shale base open to drilling.
- There is no plan to process permit applications in a timely manner, creating "a great deal of regulatory uncertainty" which could scare off otherwise willing drillers.
- IOGA suggests the federal Clean Air Act supersedes many of the more stringent atmospheric emissions rules proposed by DEC.
- A letter to DEC Secretary Joe Martens accompanying the comment notes that natural gas prices have steadily dropped as fracking has opened up supplies around the country. New York's proposed regulations are stronger than other states, and would put New York at a competitive disadvantage "without delivering any meaningful additional safeguards."
Click here to read IOGA-NY's summary of its comments
Click here to read IOGA-NY's letter to the DEC