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Fracking protest round-up, and NJ considers fracking ban

The Capitol was flush with anti-hydrofracking protestors yesterday, who gathered to push the state environmental agency to stop studying and start banning the natural gas extraction technique.  Brian Nearing at the Times Union reports that hundreds of protestors were also joined by Josh Fox, the director of the anti-fracking film "Gasland."

Cara Matthews at Gannett outlines the demands of the health, environment and community groups at the protest:

The groups involved in Monday's event want several measures passed in the Legislature this year that relate to hydrofracking, including bills that would: » Require the DEC to create regulations requiring the gas industry to disclose the chemicals in fracking fluids and ban the use of fluids that could harm people's health. Permits would be withheld until such regulations were developed. » Set up home-rule zoning rules in addition to state regulations so communities can have a say in how towns and cities develop can have the power to oversee drilling as they do other industries. » Require that all hazardous wastes produced by gas or oil facilities be considered hazardous for the purpose of transfer and treatment. » Many of the rally organizers are sponsoring a media campaign, "New York Water Rangers," which includes radio, online and print advertisements that will run through the end of the legislative session.

While protestors outside the Capitol were calling for a ban, Democratic senators inside the Capitol were forwarding legislation to that effect.  Casey Seiler reports at Capitol Confidential that Democrats in the Republican-controlled body are seeking both and increased regulation over fracking.  You can read the release about the legislation at the blog.

Meanwhile the Post-Standard has an AP piece that gives a national-level view of the debate over natural gas extraction.  It's a good primer on the key arguments in the debate, and worth a read if you're curious about what's going (or what's happened already) in other potential drilling areas.

And the New York Times has picked up a piece by Greenwire's Mike Soraghan about the Cornell natural gas study that we noted yesterday.  Soraghan writes that research Robert Howarth's paper is already raising the ire of the gas industry:

But industry representatives disputed numerous points in the study, saying the researchers used unconventional methodologies to reach their conclusion. "These guys weren't about to let a silly thing like data get in the way of a good story," said Chris Tucker, spokesman for the industry group Energy in Depth, which was founded by drillers to fight federal regulation of fracturing. "Reading the paper, it's tough not to get the impression that the fix was in from the start, that they set out with a series of conclusions and then just worked backward from there, moving the parameters in and out as needed to get where they wanted to go." Howarth said that the findings were not predetermined and said the study's credibility has been bolstered by peer review.

Finally, in New Jersey, environmental groups are pushing Governor Chris Christie to pass a ban on drilling in the Delaware River Basin, reports Tom Johnson at NJ Spotlight:

On Thursday, the deadline for the public to comment on the rules proposed by the commission ends. Environmentalists fear that if the agency adopts them, a moratorium now in place would expire, allowing widespread drilling to go forward. "Fracking is the biggest threat to New Jersey’s water supply ever," said Jeff Tittel, speaking on the steps of the Statehouse in Trenton. "It is the biggest threat to the Delaware River Basin in its entire history." Thirty-nine state legislators have joined with the groups in asking the administration to urge the DRBC to maintain a moratorium on natural gas drilling in the region until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completes a cumulative impact study assessing the affect drilling will have on drinking water. The state of New York has a moratorium in place, too, but that is expected to end sometime this summer.

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