Today’s news:

Gennaro wants drilling ban

City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows) urged support last week from the city’s community boards for his resolution that calls upon state lawmakers to pass a law to ban gas drilling in the state’s water supply areas, including the city’s drinking water watershed.

“Every New Yorker should be worried about the very real and immediate threat of natural gas drilling in our drinking water supply and join in the fight to get the state to ban this environmentally and fiscally unsustainable activity,” Gennaro said.

Gennaro, other elected officials and environmental advocates gathered outside City Hall March 5 to garner support for the councilman’s resolution, which he planned to introduce Wednesday.

The resolution calls on state lawmakers to support a ban on natural gas drilling in any part of the city’s million−acre upstate watershed area that provides drinking water for more than 8 million city residents and 1 million people in Westchester and other counties.

“I call upon every community board in New York City to adopt our upcoming resolution, and every New Yorker to sign our online petition, to send a clear message to the governor and the state Legislature that we will not allow our drinking water to be ruined by natural gas drilling,” Gennaro said.

There has been a long history of oil, gas and solution salt mining wells in the state, and about 14,000 wells are still active and new drilling continues, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Energy companies have recently shown interest in drilling in the Marcellus Shale, layered rock that extends from Ohio and West Virginia northeast into Pennsylvania and New York, and can run deeper than 7,000 feet at some points.

Gennaro and environmental advocates have said drilling in the Marcellus Shale using methods such as hydraulic fracturing could potentially contaminate city residents’ water supply.

Hydraulic fracturing entails injecting up to 5 million gallons of water laced with chemicals into the ground at high pressure to break the rock and extract the natural gas.

The method alarms people like Joe Levin, co−founder of grass roots advocacy group NY−H2O.

“Hydrofracking … employs the use of highly toxic chemicals that will poison our air and water and turn our beautiful upstate region into a sacrificial industrial zone,” Levine said. “It’s almost impossible to imagine unless you actually see what it has done to some of the most pristine natural environments out west.”

Last summer the U.S. Land Management Bureau documented that groundwater in Sublette County, Wyoming, which has one of the country’s largest natural gas fields and where hydraulic fracturing is commonly employed, had been contaminated with benzene, a substance that has been linked to cancer and nervous system disorders.

“We’ll never allow any drilling in the watershed area,” state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D−Little Neck) said. “That watershed area is sacred. It is what helped create our city and will continue to make the city great in the future, so nothing can pollute our watershed area. New York City’s water supply is one of the best in the world, and we hope to keep it that way.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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