WASHINGTON DC — Following up on a report in “The New York Times” that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration is pursuing a plan that would permit hydraulic fracturing in parts of New York, Congressman Maurice Hinchey today urged the governor to take a series of 10 steps before even considering the possibility of any natural gas drilling in the state. The congressman praised the governor for his thoughtfulness on the issue, but said that more steps need to be taken to adequately protect the environment and public health from the risks of the controversial gas extraction process that involves pumping toxic chemicals deep into the ground.
"I commend you for the deliberate and thoughtful way in which you have proceeded with shale gas drilling in New York," Hinchey wrote in a letter sent today to Cuomo. "It is clear that you want to make sure people’s water supplies are protected and I applaud the fact that you and your administration have not stood in the way of local communities that have passed hydraulic fracturing bans. However, despite the very hard work of, and sincere efforts by, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to update New York’s rules covering high-volume hydraulic fracturing, serious gaps remain."
Among Hinchey’s recommendations to the governor are: a cumulative impact analysis of the impact hydraulic fracturing would have in the state; a full assessment of public health risks; a comprehensive wastewater treatment plan; a rule to create further distance between potential drilling sites and water supplies; a prohibition on the use of toxic chemicals in all fracking fluids; a rule mandating public disclosure of all chemicals used at each well site before drilling commences; a dramatic increase in New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) resources and staffing to oversee potential drilling; a complete ban on land spreading of fracking waste fluids; alignment of DEC’s gas drilling permit rules with the requirements of secondary lending institutions covering oil and gas activity on mortgaged properties; and waiting for the result of the ongoing EPA study of hydraulic fracturing that the congressman initiated.
Earlier this year, Hinchey urged Cuomo to withdraw the state’s revised draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS) on high-volume horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale and other areas of New York State. Hinchey said at the time that the current form of the dSGEIS failed to address many of his concerns with the initial draft and also does not account for new information that has been discovered about the environmental, public health and economic risks associated with the natural gas drilling activity.
"We only have one chance to get this right, which is why we must take every possible step to protect the environment, public water supplies, and the overall health of residents from the dangers of hydraulic fracturing," Hinchey said. "Governor Cuomo has taken some positive steps forward to protect communities from fracking, but much more needs to be done before any consideration should be given to issuing permits for drilling."
Hinchey is a leader in Congress of the effort to protect drinking water and the environment from the risks of hydraulic fracturing. He is a co-author of the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act, which would mandate public disclosure of chemicals used in fracking fluid and close a loophole from the 2005 Bush-Cheney energy bill in order to allow the EPA to regulate fracking activities under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The congressman, who is a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment, also authored the appropriations language that led to the current EPA study on the risks that hydraulic fracturing poses to drinking water supplies.
(Carol Montana, photo)