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By staff with additional reporting by Jon Lentz of City Hall
From pols to celebs, hundreds attend Tribeca hearing on controversial drilling process
“Ban Fracking Now” was the rallying cry for about a dozen downstate lawmakers before a Nov. 30 hearing in Manhattan on the drilling procedure, though a few acknowledged the long odds in pressuring Governor Andrew Cuomo to keep the industry out of the state.
Hundreds of citizens turned out for the last of four hearings, held at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, on whether to lift the current ban on hydraulic fracturing. Politicians like Senator Daniel Squadron and even a few celebrities, like actors Debra Winger and Mark Ruffalo, joined a protest outside of the venue an hour before the start of the hearing. This method of drilling could extract natural gas in the portion of the upstate Marcellus Formation, comprised of sedimentary rock, but critics say this process could contaminate the water supply for millions of individuals—including New York City residents.
“Hydraulic fracturing is a process by which millions of gallons of water and fracturing fluids are pumped into horizontal wells to access natural gas in mineral formations. Some of the chemicals that are used are toxic, long-lasting and largely untested, and are difficult or impossible to remove once they enter the natural environment. We simply do not know how the many chemicals used in hydrofracking will impact our long-term health and our environment,” explained Sen. Squadron at the NYS Department of Enviornmental Conversation hearing.
“[W]e have had opportunities to monitor this type of gas drilling in other states and the results have not been encouraging. The potential for leaks, spills, contaminations and explosions to poison New York City’s unfiltered drinking water supply have not yet been adequately mitigated by the drilling industry. The litany of recent incidents at drilling sites in Pennsylvania speaks for themselves,” Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer adding during his testimony. “[A]t this time I cannot endorse the use of horizontal hydraulic fracturing anywhere in New York State until it can be proven to be completely safe. And, I certainly cannot support the use of horizontal hydraulic fracturing anywhere near New York City’s drinking water infrastructure.”
“This crowd here, would we have liked to have seen a ban on hydrofracking? Yes,” said New York State Senator David Carlucci, whose hydraulic fracturing moratorium bill failed to pass. “We know under the current circumstances, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.” He said that he’ll continue to push for adequate regulatory resources and public health protections, and to make sure many of the new industry jobs expected are local. Other lawmakers said that if there’s no ban, they want regulations to be so strict that they essentially prohibit fracking. “In order to ensure safety, the restrictions and regulations will have to be tremendously strong, and hopefully provide a disincentive to the companies to want to abide by them,” said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal. “There are other places to frack in this country. They don’t have to do it here.”
The comment period on the fracking regulations were previously delayed through Dec. 12, but have now been extended through Jan. 11, 2012.
New York State Senator Daniel Squadron speaking during a rally before the final hearing on “fracking,” which was held last Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center on Chambers Street. Photo courtesy of Sen. Daniel Squadron’s office
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