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U.S. senate committee debates fracking

Lawmakers at the U.S. Capitol took up fracking yesterday.
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Lawmakers at the U.S. Capitol took up fracking yesterday.

The Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee heard testimony about the potential effects of natural gas drilling yesterday, reports Elizabeth Bewley at Gannett:

Oversight of fracking has fallen to states because a 2005 energy law exempts the natural gas industry from many federal regulations. Some lawmakers and witnesses at Tuesday's hearing said that's how it should stay. Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma said authorities have no evidence fracking contaminates groundwater, even though more than one million natural gas wells have been built in the U.S. since the technique was first used in 1949. The natural-gas industry's boom over the last decade, Inhofe said, is "due in no small measure to absence of federal regulation." Others say federal authorities need to step in.

You can watch the hearing at C-Span, divided in two panels, one and two.

NYS fracking bills

Closer to home, Senator Tony Avella, a Democrat from Queens, introduced legislation yesterday that would ban hydrofracking, reports Cara Matthews at Vote Up!.  Earlier in the day Tuesday a Senate committee nixed legislation that would have forced gas companies to disclose their fracking fluid formulas.  Joseph Spector has video of that hearing, also at Vote Up!.

Gas carbon footprint study

Natural gas companies are continuing to try to shed doubt on a Cornell University researcher's findings that natural gas has larger carbon footprint than coal.  David Templeton at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:

Energy in Depth, representing the nation's independent natural gas and oil producers, issued five major criticisms of the study, ranging from what it describes as the authors' previous wavering about data used in the study, acknowledgement of errors, and restatements of findings. The producers also criticize the study's use of the 20-year period to analyze greenhouse gases rather than 100 years. They also said the study used questionable data along with assumptions that do not stand up to scrutiny, while contending Howarth has long-held biases against the industry. Matt Pitzarella, spokesman for Range Resources, a major Marcellus Shale drilling company based in Cecil, Washington County, said the industry would lose $6 billion a year if up to 7.9 percent of shale gas were being lost to the atmosphere. Such releases would not only pose safety risks, but mean a great loss in revenues for drilling companies.

But in the Times Union, Brian Nearing reports that the study's author argues that some of the flaws industry officials point to are because drillers won't release data.

Downtown hydropower

Brian Sharp at the Democrat and Chronicle reports that officials in Rochester are considering using an old race (a narrow waterway) for hydropower:

"The river has always powered the city, both economically and literally," said Tom Hack, senior structural engineer for the city. "We are basically going back 150 years to capture what was always there, with a whole new technology." Built in 1817, Johnson and Seymour race diverts off the river through a series of gates just north of Interstate 490 and, at one time, returned after spilling over a waterfall — powering water wheels — in the lower level of today's Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. Station 6. Today, Station 6 operates as a substation. City officials last week put out a request for proposals for firms to submit costs, potential power generation and other details of installing one or more turbines in the race.

Nuclear safety

Several state senators are planning a hearing on nuclear safety on May 12, reports Nick Reisman at State of Politics, following concerns about how NYS would evacuate the dense urban area surrounding plants like Indian Point.

Offshore wind

The New York Power Authority is still mulling its options for siting a wind farm on either Lake Ontario or Lake Erie, reports the Innovation Trail's Daniel Robison.  The project was originally meant to be announced at the beginning of the year, but now it's being pushed back to the summer sometime.  Meanwhile, many towns along the shores of both lakes are moving to ban offshore turbines preemptively. 

And today, a conference about Great Lakes offshore wind gets underway at RIT.

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