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While Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to soon release proposed regulations allowing a controversial drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing in New York state, the head of the City Council Committee on Environmental Protection is cautioning that a national standard for so-called fracking in a safe manner does not exist.
The possibility of fracking in New York state has caused an uproar among many environmental activists who worry drilling in the Marcellus Shale, a large rock formation that lies under parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virgina, could contaminate the city’s drinking water.
Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) said the federal government does not regulate hydraulic fracking, the process of injecting high volumes of water and chemicals into the ground in order to break apart shale and extract natural gas, leaving states little guidance in governing the practice themselves.
“This is a real abdication on the part of the federal government,” he said. “This is the type of technology, the type of process, that really needs to have national standards.”
Congress exempted hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act in a 2005 energy bill after a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study found the practice posed little to no threat to drinking water, although that study has been criticized by environmentalists.
Gennaro said state rules in place so far have not sufficiently protected the environment or drinking water and public health, thus creating the absence of any regulatory paradigm.
“It’s pretty well-known that other states don’t do a very good job of regulating this,” he said. “It is really almost beyond the capability for any individual state to do all the basic research and science that would need to be done to do this properly.”
He pointed to the nuclear energy industry and said in comparison it is unimaginable the federal government would leave the states to themselves to determine how to dispose of nuclear waste or contain radioactivity.
“This should not be left up to the states, it should be done by the federal government,” he said.
Cuomo may allow limited drilling in the state once a state Department of Environmental Conservation completes a four-year study on fracking’s environmental and health impacts.
Potential details of the state plans were leaked to The New York Times earlier in the summer and include limiting the practice to five counties near the Marcellus Shale that do not have a single, common drinking water supply.
Drilling would also only be allowed in towns that agree to it and would not be allowed near water reservoirs that serve New York City.
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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