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DEC on defensive after EPA links hydrofracking to water pollution

Marie Cusick
DEC Commissioner Joe Martens (center) has spent much of his time defending the DEC's pro-hydrofracking position since he took charge of the agency a year ago.

New York's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is defending its position that hydrofracking can be done safely after federal officials with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that they've found a possible link between hydrofracking and groundwater contamination in Wyoming.

The EPA report singles out hyrofracking as the likely cause of high concentrations of chemicals like benzene in the water of Pavillion, Wyo.

The federal agency began studying the town back in 2008 after residents complained their drinking water had a foul odor and taste.

The news comes at a critical time for New York, as the DEC prepares its final review of hydrofracking.

DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis issued this response in an e-mail to the Innovation Trail:

EPA’s draft findings are specific to Pavillion and point to poor well construction and hydraulic fracturing directly into and beneath drinking water supplies as the causes of the problem. New York’s proposed requirements are more stringent than Wyoming’s standards. If high-volume hydraulic fracturing is allowed to move forward in New York, it would be done in deeper formations where the natural gas exists and not within underground sources of drinking water. New York would require rigorous casing and cementing standards and a minimum of 1,000 feet of separation between the high-volume hydraulic fracturing activity and the deepest ground water.

The EPA report also notes that drilling in Pavillion does occur closer to water sources than in other parts of the country.

The DEC expects to complete its review of hydrofracking by next spring and could begin to issue well permits shortly thereafter.

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