New regulations announced April 23 were designed to end natural gas drilling near New York City’s drinking water source.
But the rules have sparked a backlash among environmental advocates, who claim that the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) missed an opportunity to ban drilling near the city’s water supply altogether.
There has been a push in recent years from oil and gas companies to drill in the Marcellus Shale using a technique called hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting water mixed with chemicals and sand into a well to free trapped natural gas.
The proposal requires a separate environmental impact statement to accompany each individual permit application to drill in a specific site in the Marcellus Shale region, which spans parts of New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.
Legislators and environmental advocates in the city have long opposed natural gas drilling near the city’s watershed for fear of contamination. Those in favor of a full ban had tepid reactions.
“We don’t see much of anything in this decision that would protect either the New York City or Syracuse watershed,” said Kate Sinding, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “All the DEC is doing is putting off a decision that could be made now.”
State Sen. Tom Duane called the move a step forward, but still wants a ban on drilling near watersheds. The new rules only slow down natural gas drilling near watersheds for New York City and Syracuse.
“I fear it is a cynical move that will pit New Yorkers against each other,” Duane said in a statement. “Residents in Manhattan and Syracuse, for example, will benefit from this decision, while those living in Ithaca and Jamestown will not. This is unacceptable.”
Borough President Scott Stringer, who started a “Kill the Drill” campaign to fight for a ban, said special requirements become “bonanzas for commercial lobbyists.”
“A complete ban on watershed drilling was the right thing a year ago, it’s the right thing today, and it will remain the right thing for as long as we debate hydraulic fracturing in New York,” Stringer said in a statement. “The state should go the full distance and enact a ban.”
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