Saturday, March 26, 2011

Legislature Adopts Anti-Fracking Law - Ulster (USA)

Legislature Adopts Anti-Fracking Law

KINGSTON — Supporters of a resolution prohibiting hydraulic fracturing on any county-owned lands lauded the efforts of Legislator Susan Zimet, D-New Paltz, during last week's legislative session for sponsoring the legislation.The majority of speakers during public comment period urged the legislature to enact the legislation without delay.
The legislature then unanimously adopted the resolution prohibiting the leasing of any county-owned land for high-volume and chemical slick water hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas.
Hydraulic fracturing, or hydro-fracking, is a process that drills horizontal fractures in rock formations using highly pressurized, chemical-laden fluids to increase the rate and recovery of natural gas.
The Marcellus Shale formation, part of which lies in the western Catskills, is attractive to drilling supporters, who view it as an ample source of natural gas and conducive to hydro-fracking.
Opponents of the technique say the process endangers the quality of groundwater. Supporters contend the technique is reliable and that no contamination of groundwater has been directly linked to the practice.
During the public comment period, speaker after speaker railed against the controversial drilling process. Ulster County resident Nancy Basinger urged the legislature to adopt the resolution "so we can continue to enjoy our safe drinking water."
Basinger said that the regulations imposed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) were written for existing small vertical wells. She explained that a horizontal hydro-frack in a tight shale formation is from 10 to 100 times larger than the fracks put on small vertical wells. "The existing DEP well regulations are grossly inadequate to regulate hydro-fracked wells," she said.
She explained that the volume of fluid in one hydro-frack can exceed 3 million gallons and "contain chemicals that would be illegal to use in warfare under the rules of the Geneva Convention."
Basinger said that the state should wait for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue its new guidelines on horizontal hydro-fracking on shale gas wells and that the state should wait for Congress to "close the Halliburton loophole in the Clean Water Act so that such wells are once again brought under federal jurisdiction that they were before the 2005 Energy Act exempted them from regulation."
Also addressing the legislature on the matter was Linda Schwab-Edmundson, of Frackfree Catskills, who warned of the "many devastating risks New York stands to face if gas drilling utilizing hydro-fracking were greenlighted."
Schwab-Edmundson cited a recent report regarding 200 gas wells in Pennsylvania, where hydraulic fracturing has been implemented. The report noted that "radioactive wastewater resulting from hydro-fracking has been dumped into rivers, streams and lakes at levels that are 1,000 times greater than what the EPA considers safe."
The speaker noted that of the 200 wells producing waste water, more than 179 indicated high levels of radiation, with at least 116 reporting levels of radium or other radioactive materials 100 times higher than the required federal drinking water standards.
"Once introduced," she said, "there's no way to remove the gas or the chemicals from our drinking water."
Speaker Joan Walker exhorted the legislature to prepare for "the scale of change that is about to hit" the state when the moratorium on hydro-fracking expires in June.
"We are expecting 80,000-100,000 gas wells west of here, she said. "Yet, the DEP has only 19 people in the mining and mineral department to regulate those wells."
Legislator James Maloney, R-Lake Katrine, commended Zimet on the resolution and asked why it limits the ban to only county-owned property.
Zimet replied that the resolution is merely a starting point and that "it's easier to take a small step first and then we can build and build and build."
Legislator Dave Donaldson, D-Kingston, said the legislature is restricted in what it can do because of home rule. "Towns would have to pick it up and deal with it through their zoning laws because it's a matter of home rule," he said. "All we can do is to encourage towns to enact laws prohibiting it."
The town of Woodstock in Ulster County has recently taken the first step toward that end. Last Tuesday, they voted to adopt a resolution that would even prohibit transporting extracted material through its municipality.

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