Numerous health and environmental groups are calling for a legislative ban on hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells, saying no amount of regulation can adequately safeguard water supplies from contamination.
Hundreds of people from around the state traveled to Albany today to hold a rally and lobby state lawmakers for various bills related to the practice known as “fracking.” Many are pushing a bill that would ban fracking, which stimulates gas production by injecting wells with chemically treated water to fracture shale. Others are supporting a bill putting a moratorium on shale gas development.
Erica Ringewald of Environmental Advocates said her group also will lobby for a bill promoting solar industry jobs.
Ana Tinsley of Frack Action said the top priority for her group is the ban bill sponsored in the Assembly by Brooklyn Democrat William Colton and in the Senate by Queens Democrat Tony Avella. The bill would amend the state’s environmental conservation law to prohibit hydraulic fracturing and the disposal of any fluid used in a hydraulic fracturing process.
The bill cites the “tremendous risk of contamination to the state’s drinking water supply” if gas development goes forward in the Utica and Marcellus shale formations thousands of feet beneath New York.
Permitting of shale gas wells has been on hold in New York since the state Department of Environmental Conservation began a review in 2008. New regulations are expected to be in place later this year. The agency received about 40,000 public comments on its proposal, an unprecedented number.
Environmental groups acknowledge that getting a ban enacted would be a difficult struggle, and large, mainstream groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council are focusing lobbying efforts on stringent regulatory measures.
Industry groups, who point to a decades-long history of safe gas drilling in New York, have said the regulations proposed by the DEC are so strict they would effectively shut down shale gas development in the state because of the high cost of compliance.
That’s not good enough for grassroots groups like Frack Action.
“Frack Action’s position is that there’s no reason to even talk about a regulatory approach,” Tinsley said. “It has been proven that it can’t be done safely, even when regulated.”
A group of bakers from Tompkins County plans to deliver 100 loaves of bread to Cuomo’s office Monday afternoon to make a point about the importance of a clean and healthy environment on agriculture.
More than two dozen bills related to gas drilling have been introduced in the Legislature, according to Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy. Most stand little chance of passage, the group says, but it will be lobbying for the so-called “home rule” bill, which clarifies the right of towns to enact zoning ordinances that prohibit fracking and discourage industry-funded lawsuits against such bans.
Another bill would classify toxic and radioactive wastewater from gas-drilling operations as hazardous waste. The measure passed in the Assembly last year, but died in the Senate.