Environmentalists Slam Cuomo over New York Fracking DecisionJul 8, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP
Environmental groups are up in arms over New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's decision to lift a ban on high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the state. Recently, a 49-member coalition of environmental groups, including Food & Water Watch, Frack Action, Democracy for America, Friends of the Earth, Credo Action, Center for Heath Environment and Justice, Catskill Mountainkeeper and Citizen Action New York, sent a letter to Cuomo's office demanding a state-wide ban on fracking.
“Fracked natural gas is a dirty fuel that will make global warming worse,” Alex Moore, dirty fuels campaigner, Friends of the Earth, said in a statement issued by the coalition. “Governor Cuomo should put clean water and a safe environment ahead of gas company profits.”
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) put a hold on issuing drilling permits for fracking in 2008 while it studied the environmental impacts of fracking. The DEC finished its environmental review and issued its draft recommendations July 1, calling for fracking to be allowed in most of New York. Its recommendations, however, also call for high-volume fracking to be prohibited:
• In the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, including a buffer zone;
• Within primary aquifers and within 500 feet of their boundaries;
• On state-owned land including parks, forest areas and wildlife management areas.
A moratorium on fracking imposed by former Governor David Patterson expired on July 1. While the Democratic-controlled State Assembly did vote to extend the moratorium for another year, a similar bill has gained no traction in the Senate. Cuomo's decision not to extend the fracking moratorium means that roughly 85 percent of the Marcellus Shale in New York will be accessible to natural gas extraction once the DEC finalizes its rules and begins issuing permits.
Needless to say, environmentalists aren't impressed.
“By banning fracking in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, the Cuomo administration is clearly demonstrating awareness about the potential for serious hazard to the citizens of those municipalities,” said David Braun, co-founder of United for Action. “ It is unacceptable however, that they create a double standard and leave the rest of the good citizens of New York State completely vulnerable to serious toxic threat, and protect only a portion of the population. Why are upstate citizens any less important?”
The coalition maintains that allowing fracking to flourish in some areas will breed catastrophic accidents that could affect all New York residents. The groups point out that the DEC's fracking plan will allow thousands of new wells to be drilled across New York, using billions of gallons of fresh water, and industrializing rural communities across the state.