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EPA Voices Concerns Over Hydraulic Gas Drilling in New York State

Jan 4, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing in New York  got some ammunition last week when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) questioned the state's natural gas drilling plans.

According to The New York Times, in formal comments on the state’s newly proposed natural gas drilling regulations, the EPA said it is concerned about the regional water supply, air quality, wastewater treatment and radioactive materials that could be disturbed during drilling. The agency said the state should consider instituting “essential environmental protection measures” before it begins reviewing drilling permits for the state's Marcellus Shale region.

According to the Times, the Marcellus Shale region in New York State encompasses New York City’s watershed in the Catskills, which supplies the city’s drinking water. Chesapeake Energy Corporation, which owns the lease to drill in the watershed, said it won’t drill there. But according to the Times, opponents of the plan fear that that stance could eventually be reversed.

A spokesperson for Mayor Bloomberg told the Times that the EPA’s comments indicate that the state’s environmental impact statement is “flawed and should be rescinded,” the Times said.

Shale gas drilling, known as hydraulic fracturing involves injecting water, sand, and a cocktail of chemicals at high pressure into rock formations thousands of feet below the surface. This opens existing fractures in the rock and allows gas to rise through the wells. The practice makes drilling possible in areas that 10 to 20 years ago would not have been profitable. The major concern with shale gas drilling is the chemicals used in the process, and the waste water it produces.

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