Hydraulic fracturing is a controversial technology invented by Halliburton that allows the gas industry to extract gas from previously untapped sources such as New York's Marcellus Shale deposit by blasting millions of gallons of chemically-treated water into the earth. The high volume of chemicals that hydraulic fracturing releases into the environment creates serious concerns about its impact on water quality and public health.
The EPA has just begun a two-year study of the effects of hydraulic fracturing on the environment to adequately assess its cumulative and public health impacts. Unless there is a law in place that forces New York to wait to issue drilling permits until this study is complete, the gas industry will be allowed to proceed with hydraulic fracturing without EPA's guidance and place the drinking water supply for millions of New Yorkers across the state at risk.
In effort to protect public health and safety, the proposed legislation requires New York State to wait 120 days after EPA completes its study of hydraulic fracturing before making a final decision on allowing drilling to proceed in the Marcellus Shale across the state.
The following is a statement from Earthjustice Associate Attorney Megan Klein:
"The oil and gas industry is at New York's doorstep, clamoring for access to underground reserves and demanding the right to blast millions of gallons of chemically-treated water into the earth to extract the gas. But before the rigs move in from Texas, we need time to make sure our resources and public health will be protected.
"New York should not rush a practice that has the potential to destroy the drinking water resources for millions of New Yorkers. The damage to the environment posed by the controversial practice known as hydraulic fracturing could be devastating, and any necessary cleanup -- if possible -- could practically bankrupt New York's already fragile economy. Hydraulic fracturing requires the use of hundreds of chemicals, and the identity of many of these chemicals is kept secret by the gas industry. Allowing these chemicals to enter New York's environment before evaluating their impacts to public health is a mistake New York cannot afford to make.
"We've seen what happens when authorities hand out drilling permits without taking the time to protect the public. Next door in Pennsylvania, gas development via hydraulic fracturing has ramped up quickly, with the pace of drilling tripling in recent years. Along with this increased gas development came exploding water wells in Dimock and widespread pollution in the Monongahela River. And just last week, in the northwestern part of the state, a plume of toxic wastewater produced by hydraulic fracturing shot 75 feet into the air from a ruptured well, raining chemicals down on the site for 16 straight hours.
"Our state officials must take all possible precautions to ensure that New Yorkers aren't subject to these same dangers. EPA's research is vital to understanding the extent of adverse environmental impacts posed by hydraulic fracturing, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation would be making a grave mistake by proceeding with gas drilling before evaluating the results of EPA's study.
"We applaud the efforts of Assemblyman Englebright and Senator Addabbo to prevent the gas industry from acting prematurely and prospering at the expense of New York's water supply, one of our most precious and limited resources."
Kathleen Sutcliffe, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 235