The state released its latest proposal to allow the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“hydrofracking”) in New York, and environmental groups and politicians are concerned that the process would irreparably harm the state’s drinking water.
In September, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released a revised draft studying the issue and will accept public comment until December.
One of the public comment opportunities was an online town hall last week with DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, who fielded several questions about hydrofracking.
“I don’t agree the process has been rushed,” Martens said, regarding the state’s timeline to begin hydrofracking. “DEC has considered and examined the potential impacts of high-volume hydraulic fracturing and ways to mitigate these impacts for more than three years. We are in our second comment period and when that is over, two-thirds of the [draft proposal], and a vast majority of the mitigation measure, will have been in the public realm for more than 150 days. Our number one priority through this entire process is to protect drinking water [and] our rigorous requirements will do that.”
One resident asked Martens what children will drink after “millions and millions of gallons” of fresh water was used to frack.
“Just this year a bill was signed into law that requires all commercial and industrial water users to get a permit from DEC for large water withdrawls,” Martens responded. According to various studies, “high-volume hydraulic fracturing will increase demand on fresh water in the state by just .24 percent,” he added.
Hydrofracking releases natural gas by pumping pressurized water and other chemicals into natural rock layers. Proponents of the process say it will provide thousands of jobs for New Yorkers as well as create more efficient energy use.
However, there are many environmental concerns that injecting the hydrofracking fluids could damage the region’s drinking water. This has caused many states to reevaluate the process, which has led to New York’s lengthy review of the procedure.
Still, while the state has concluded that the process, heavily regulated, would be beneficial, other politicians have continued their fight against hydrofracking.
“The governor must be cautious, not too hasty, otherwise gas drilling could damage the lands, communities and water quality for millions of New Yorkers,” State Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said in a statement.
“I believe the governor is rushing into dangerous territory by planning to issue proposed regulations for drilling this month, with the public only having until December 12 to comment on the draft environmental study,” Addabbo continued. “His administration should wait until after the final study is completed before drawing up the regulations.”
According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll conducted last month, New Yorkers support hydrofracking 45 percent to 41 percent. However, upstate voters—where drilling would have the biggest impact—are more divided with 47 percent of voters opposed to the measure.
By Eric Yun