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New York DEC Backs Fracking in Most of State

Jul 1, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP

New York is a step closer today to allowing high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing, now that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has finished its environmental review and issued its draft recommendations.  If the DEC recommendations are accepted by Governor Andrew Cuomo, about 85 percent of the Marcellus shale would be accessible to natural gas extraction via fracking.

The DEC is recommending, however, that high-volume fracking 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.

The draft report reverses earlier positions the DEC held that would have allowed fracking in the watersheds, near primary aquifers, and on public lands.  

In a statement, the DEC promised that enforcement and oversight of high-volume hydraulic fracturing will be rigorous and effective. No permits will be issued until the DEC has the proper enforcement capacity in place to monitor all fracturing activities.

Environmentalists, however, are not impressed.  In an open letter to Governor Cuomo that appears today on, Maura Stephens, cofounder of the Coalition to Protect New York, writes:

“We do not trust the Department of Environmental Conservation to get things right on fracking. Even if it were a reliable and trustworthy agency, the DEC’s budget has been cut so drastically and its workforce decimated to the point that it’s virtually hamstrung.

We do not trust — nor should any sensible, informed citizen or legislator — corporate-bought politicians and corporate "scientists." For the moment we must trust that you are not among that group and that you truly want to do what is right for New York State.”

A report published online by The New York Times last night said the governor was poised to approve the draft recommendations.  However his spokesperson called the Times report "baseless speculation and premature,” according to MSNBC.

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