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DEC outlines new fracking rules

Karen DeWitt
DEC Commissioner Joe Martens spoke in Albany this morning about the agency's recommendations.

New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens appeared this morning to share outlines of a new plan to regulate hydrofracking in New York State.

In its current form, the rulebook would ban gas drilling from the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, within 500 feet of primary aquifers, and from state parkland.In hydrofracking, a mix of water, sand and chemicals is pumped underground at high pressure to break up rock layers. Natural gas seeps through the cracks and is captured.

The gas industry says hydrofracking is safe if it's done right. Opponents say fracking threatens to pollute water supplies.

Martens' agency, the DEC, will be responsible for regulating natural gas drillers. He told reporters he believes fracking can be carried out safely.

The latest draft of his agency's drilling guidelines recommends allowing fracking in 85 percent of New York's Marcellus Shale.

Waiting on details

Brian Smith of Citizens Campaign for the Environment says it will be important to review the details of the official draft document, due to be released July 8 (For now, read the executive summary [PDF]).

"A press release is not a policy so we are very much looking forward to seeing the document," notes Smith. 

"Ultimately we need to delve into this document to make sure the other 85 percent of the people in areas in the state have adequate protections from this industrial process."

In a statement, Brad Gill of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York says his organization also looked forward to going through the plan's details.

"After so many months of waiting and delay, we look forward to the chance to get people working and our economy growing," Gill says.

A 60-day comment period on the DEC study will begin in August. The DEC will complete a final revision before the document is finalized and any permits can be issued for companies to drill wells.

The agency has been working on its regulations for the past four years.

Former WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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