Getting the facts straight on the "Hydrofracking" moratorium
Since the Assembly’s passage of the hydrofracking moratorium bill, I have drawn a lot of flack for my vocal opposition. I believe that natural gas exploration will provide our State with desperately needed jobs and tax revenues in these tough economic times. Supporters of the moratorium have raised the ghastly specter of contaminated water supplies and are calling for a ban on all gas drilling. Proponents of gas exploration agree that the State must take the necessary precautions to ensure that drinking water in the Southern Tier remains safe and plentiful. The moratorium bill's arbitrary suspension of drilling without any credible evidence of danger to our water supply is not in the best interest of our economy.
The New York City watershed, as well as that of other major New York cities, is protected and off-limits to natural gas exploration. The NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is a national leader in protecting our environment. This summer, the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) asked nine drilling companies for detailed information regarding the chemicals contained in the fluids used in the horizontal hydraulic fracturing process. All nine drilling companies’ have complied with the EPA's past requests and are expected to fully participate in the new study. Congress has ordered the EPA to investigate hydraulic fracturing and to release its report by the end of 2012. But that’s too long. The EPA study must be finalized by May 2011, so that New York State can move forward with its own regulations governing natural gas exploration in the Southern Tier.
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle points out that horizontal hydraulic fracturing has been banned since July 2008 due to an executive order issued by Governor Paterson that cannot be lifted until the DEC promulgates new regulations. In addition, there already exists a de facto moratorium on expanded gas exploration since funding for 29 additional DEC inspectors was not included in the FY 2011 state budget. When we factor in the decimating budgets and staff reductions due to attrition and early retirement, new permits can not be issued for expanded natural gas exploration in the Southern Tier. Lastly, the bill imposes a moratorium until May 15 and it is doubtful the regulations will be ready by then.
Natural gas exploration is an economic necessity, both for the Southern Tier economy and for reducing our dependence on higher priced, out-of-state and foreign natural gas supplies. Over 20,000 good-paying jobs have been created just over the border in Pennsylvania and millions of dollars in taxes and fees were generated for the Pennsylvania state treasury. Unemployed New Yorkers deserve the same opportunity.
The State DEC is committed to protecting the wells, aquifers, and potable water supplies of Southern Tier residents and their communities. Rather than instituting an unnecessary moratorium on “hydrofracking” and gas exploration, the NYS DEC must be allowed to finalize its Draft regulations and the US EPA must concludes its study of horizontal hydraulic fracturing technology and its effect on the environment sooner rather than later.
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