Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gov. Patterson Extends Fracking Moratorium

NY Gov. Patterson did not approve the legislature's moratorium bill on gas drilling by hydraulic fracturing, also called hydrofracking or fracking.

The governor went one better: he extended the moratorium by executive order on Saturday.

He also restricted the type of fracking that would be included in the moratorium.

Gov. Patterson restricted the moratorium to a controversial method of hydrofracking that uses high volumes of water and employs horizontal drilling from a deep well. Landowners in nearby Pennsylvania and in other states claim this method is responsible for contaminating their well water, polluting the air and land, and causing illnesses.

Excused from the governor's moratorium is more conventional vertical drilling, as explained in a statement from Peter Kiernan, Counsel to the Governor:
The Governor vetoed legislation that would have placed a moratorium on high-volume, horizontal hydraulic drilling and more conventional vertical drilling. The Governor's order obviates the need for a moratorium on high-volume fracking. However, vertical drilling has been a fact in this State for 40 years without demonstrable environmental damage. Permitting for such drilling will continue unless the DEC's comprehensive review requires it to be stopped.
The executive order bans high-volume, horizontal, hydrofracking until at least July 1, 2011, while the NY Department of Environmental Conservation continues its ongoing review of its effects in the Marcellus Shale region.

This is a huge victory for NY residents concerned about the quality of their drinking water, air, land and public health. [However, see UPDATE, below].

In addition, the moratorium may have national consequences. New York is the first state in the nation to confront the powerful gas industry with a moratorium on their drilling methods, which have been the subject of controversy in many states.

Read a report about the executive order here, and a CNN report that preceded the Governor's order here.

UPDATE, 12/13/2010:
"Expert testimony submitted for a government hearing next month challenges long-held assumptions about the safety of deep vertical drilling and exploratory wells, which operate in many states with limited regulatory oversight," according to a report by ProPublica. The administrative hearing will be held by the Delaware River Basin Commission, a federal agency that regulates a variety of water and land activities in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware.

Environmental groups opposed to fracking are unhappy that the
Executive Order does not impose a moratorium on vertical drilling.

Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy stated:
Unlike the bill he vetoed, the Governor's Executive Order will allow the ongoing drilling and fracking of vertical wells. Although vertical wells utilize only a fraction of the toxic fluid used in high-volume horizontal wells, they are responsible for numerous pollution incidents, including the contamination of nine square miles of aquifer in Dimock, Pennsylvania where some residents have been living with poisoned water wells for the past two years.
Frack Action shared a public event on FaceBook. Today at the Governor's NYC office, Mark Ruffalo, NY State Senator Liz Krueger, and Craig and Julie Sautner of Dimock, PA will be there to tell the Governor to close the "Paterson Loophole" for vertical wells NOW.

A Press Conference will be held on Monday, December 13, at 12 noon, at the NYC Office of Gov Paterson, 644 3rd Ave. (bet. 41st & 42nd).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

>This is a huge victory for NY residents

Not so sure. Actually, we need at least a 7 year moratorium. 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.)