On Monday, the New York State Assembly passed a one year ban on fracking due to rising concerns about the effects it might have on drinking water. Fracking has proven to be very unpopular in New York, and a growing number of protesters and politicians have rallied against the practice. Recently, New York Attorney General Eric Schnelderman, even brought a lawsuit against the federal government amidst the controversy.
The ban will run through June 1, 2012, and will replace a current ban that is set to expire later this summer. State environmental officials will also release a report this summer on potential hazards of fracking, despite the fact that independent studies and advocacy groups have already documented the dangers of fracking on both the drinking water and the environment. The ban, however, must also pass the Republican controlled state Senate in order to become law.
The controversy centers around the fact that extracting gas in the Marcellus Shale region through fracking uses huge volumes of water laced with chemicals and sand, all which have the potential of contaminating millions of gallons of drinking water. Contamination could affect the drinking water of up to 15 million people in the area, including Philadelphia and New York City.
Industry officials claim that environmental activists and opponents are exaggerating the environmental impact, and point out that the economic benefits to the state would be significantly beneficial. The Marcellus Shale, for example, is believed to be one of the richest natural gas deposits on the planet. According to Reuters, “an industry spokesman said the proposed moratorium could eliminate up to 4,500 jobs on vertical hydrofracking, which is allowed. The current ban affects horizontal drilling.”
“The state has had three years to put the report together, and we think that’s sufficient time to get it right,” said Jim Smith of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, in a report by Reuters. Others, however, disagree.
“Prudent leadership demands that we take our time to address all these concerns. The natural gas within the Marcellus Shale isn’t going to go anywhere,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a democrat.
As we’ve stated before here on Inhabitat, while harvesting natural gas is certainly good for the country in order to reduce independence on foreign oil, it should not be done with questionable methods that raise serious health and other concerns. Hopefully, the State Senate also agrees.