Monday, August 16, 2010

Senate Passes Moratorium on Upstate Hydrofracking

Addabbo Concerned Over Impact of Drilling Process

Largely as a result of public outcry, the State Senate has passed legislation that would put a hold on permits issued for the natural gas drilling process known as hydrofracking. The legislation, which places a moratorium on the practice until May 2011, now goes to the Assembly for a vote.

Hydrofacking is the process of breaking apart the rock under the earth, in which some natural resources including gas are trapped. This process is done by forcing millions of galls of water mixed with chemicals into the ground. These chemicals can then work their way into the regular water supply. Hydrofracking has become a major issue as a result of the Marcellus Shale, which exists thousands of feet below the ground across New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

In order to allow the gas to escape through the shale’s pore space, drillers create artificial fractures in the shale by injecting a mixture of water, sand and gel at an extremely high pressure to crack and prop open the shale. The side effects can be extraordinarily costly and personally devastating, as families across Pennsylvania and other states have learned only after the drilling had occurred. On top of the economic and health concerns, there are considerable safety hazards within the untested drilling process, including several deadly explosions at wells.

“I co-sponsored this moratorium bill to provide the state a much-needed opportunity to fully review the potential negative side effects to this kind of drilling,” said Addabbo, who recently wrote an op-ed piece in local newspapers in support of the moratorium and announced the legislation at a press conference at City Hall this past Tuesday.

“I believe this bill provides a rational, prudent approach to the practice of hydrofracking,” continued Addabbo. “This drilling process has possible short and long term health and safety implications and is the subject of a pending Department of Environmental Conservation report, which needs to be reviewed and evaluated.” The Senator thanked his constituents for bringing this issue to his attention last year, and the hundreds of state residents who signed petitions, wrote letters and attended rallies to show Albany that hydrofracking legislation was desired by the public.

Actor Mark Ruffalo, who owns a home in Hudson Valley and has become an outspoken advocate on this issue, also spoke at Tuesday’s rally. “As a resident of Sullivan County, I am relieved the State Senate stepped up to the plate to institute sound, common sense policy on the issue of hydrofracking,” he said. “Protecting my family and neighbors and friends is why I have dedicated my time to raising awareness on this issue of critical importance.”

The Senate adopted the legislation by a vote of 48 to 9 on August 3. The bill provides for the suspension until May 15, 2011, of the issuance of new permits for the drilling of a well which utilizes the practice of hydraulic fracturing. This will provide an extended time period to study this new technology and will ensure that environmental experts and the public have time to review any proposed regulations and offer ways to make them stronger. It will also provide the legislature with time to review the DEC’s conclusions on the environmental impact of the gas drilling.

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