Updates from the Committee on Energy

Lawmakers Pushing for Uniform Watershed Protections in Marcellus Shale Drilling Regulations
April 26, 2010

Albany – Assemblymember Kevin Cahill, Chair of the Assembly Energy Committee, and Assemblymember Barbara Lifton are preparing legislation that will require a uniform standard for all of New York’s watersheds when it comes to natural gas extractions in the Marcellus Shale formation. The Department of Environmental Conservation is in the process of updating the state’s drilling regulations.

“If drilling is unsafe for the New York City Watershed, its dangerous outside the watershed too. There is an inherently unfair and troubling double standard developing with regard to the rules that will govern the extraction of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “We must ensure that our citizens receive equal protection in the regulations we develop around the important issue of drinking water quality. All New Yorkers have the right to clean water, no matter where they live.”

“All of our water resources across the state are precious and valuable, including all drinking water, no matter the source, groundwater and ponds used for livestock and to water crops and gardens and New York's protected trout streams and recreational lakes. It is unacceptable to have a two-tiered approach to protecting our water that is undeniably threatened by the large-scale, industrial drilling being proposed for the Marcellus,” Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton said. “We need a new federal Marshall Plan to promote renewable energy, instead of drilling for more fossil fuels using a technique that threaten our drinking water and our state’s economy that depends on agriculture, tourism and higher education.”

The Department of Environmental Conservation is currently in the process of formulating regulations based on over 14,000 public comments related to the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) for Marcellus Shale released last year. The document and subsequent comments examine a variety of issues concerning natural gas drilling in New York State. Among them are concerns over the amount of water needed for a type of drilling called hydofracking, the potential for ground water contamination by the fluid used in the process, the treatment of waste water, air quality issues, land use and increased industrial traffic.

“The environmental concerns must be thoroughly and publicly vetted. If it is found that the risk of extraction is too great in a given watershed, then the metrics used to reach that conclusion should be applied across the board,” Assemblymember Cahill said. “New York has an opportunity to show the nation how to do this in an environmentally responsible manner, with stringent rules governing all activity in the Marcellus shale formation.”

Assemblymember Cahill also noted the potential benefits related to the Marcellus Shale formation. These include the development of a reliable indigenous fuel supply, which in turn can promote economic development and protect consumers from market volatility and dramatic cost spikes. As Chair of the Assembly Energy Committee, Cahill has championed the need to develop new sources of clean energy and conservation in New York State.

“Coupled with clean, renewable generation, Marcellus Shale may play an essential role in achieving energy independence. Currently, we are only supplying five percent of the natural gas we use in New York,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “We will not eliminate the need for conventional energy resources in the short term. The more fuel we develop under the guidance of high standards that have long positioned New York as a leader in environmental protection, the less we have to import from regions that do not share our sensibilities.”