Tuesday, December 14, 2010

N.Y. governor vetoes fracking moratorium in favor of his own plan

In November we reported that the New York Assembly had approved a six-month moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. On Saturday, Gov. David A. Patterson vetoed that legislation in favor of an executive order that more narrowly defines the types of drilling to be restricted. Patterson's executive order includes a fracking moratorium until July 1, 2011, a period longer than the one specified by the bill, Tom Zeller Jr. of The New York Times reports. "This legislation, which was well intentioned, would have a serious impact on our state if signed into law," Paterson said in a prepared statement. "Enacting this legislation would put people out of work – work that is permitted by the Department of Environmental Conservation and causes no demonstrated environmental harm, in order to effectuate a moratorium that is principally symbolic."

Fracking, a controversial drilling technique, "uses the high-pressure injection of water, sand and a variety of chemicals to crack and prop open shale seams and more economically release gas deposits," Zeller writes. "Industry groups have argued that the process is safe, but opponents fear that those chemicals, or displaced natural gas, could be leading to the contamination of drinking water in places where fracking is already well under way, including large portions of Pennsylvania." The vetoed legislation would have implemented a fracking moratorium until May 15, 2011.

"Industry representatives complained that such a sweeping moratorium would outlaw virtually all drilling in New York, including its portion of the Marcellus shale, a vast and deep deposit of natural gas stretching under several states," Zeller writes. Patterson's order distinguishes between vertical wells and "horizontal drilling" techniques. "The governor’s order restricts permits for 'high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing,'" Zeller writes.

The announcement was met with support from the natural gas industry. "We are very pleased that the governor saw the bill for what it was – a flawed piece of legislation replete with unintended and dire consequences for the people and businesses in our industry, " said Brad Gill, the executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, in a statement. Craig Michaels, the watershed program director for the environmental group Riverkeeper, worried the order provides a potential loophole for companies. (Read more)

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