NY Green Party Says Paterson's Hydrofracking Order Doesn't Provide Adequate Protection

NY Green Party Says Paterson's Executive Order on Hydrofracking of Natural Gas Doesn't Provide Adequate Protection for Public Health and the Environment

Urge Governor-elect Cuomo to Support a Permanent Ban

The Green Party of New York State said today that Governor Paterson's veto of legislation to create a moratorium on hydrofracking for natural gas and subsequent issuance of a more limited Executive Order on horizontal drilling, high-volume hydrofracturing (HDHVH) falls far short of providing the protection that New York State residents need. The Greens support a permanent ban on hydrofracking for a variety of reasons (threats to the public health, water quality, and environment, while investing in another fossil fuel rather than clean renewable energy) and urged Governor-elect Cuomo to support that position once he takes office.

"New Yorkers understand that the entire process of HDHVHF is inherently dangerous, and diverts state and private resources from aggressively moving towards real solutions: insulation and conservation measures in every building in the state and small-scale, locally-sourced renewable energy" said Cecile Lawrence, the Green Party NY 2010 candidate for U.S. Senate, special term.

"The vetoed legislation and the Executive Order are not only insufficient to cope with the intensive, pervasive and massive scale of HDHVHF, but are a smokescreen that accommodates the gas industry's timetable while handing the anti-drilling movement a hollow 'victory'," said Howie Hawkins, co-chair of the Green Party of NYS and recent gubernatorial candidate.

On Saturday December 11, Governor David Paterson vetoed NY State Assembly and State Senate bills that called for a moratorium until May 15, 2011 on the issuance of permits for drilling and hydrofracturing for natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations that underlie much of the upstate region of New York. At the same time, he issued an Executive Order that delayed until July 1, 2011, the issuance of permits for the horizontal drilling, high-volume hydrofracturing (HDHVHF) of those same shale formations. Furthermore, the EO is effective only as long as Paterson is Governor, and thus ends December 31, 2010, not July 1, 2011.

The vetoed legislation applied only to the nine (9) shale wells in the whole state for which permits were being sought, not to wells already permitted but not yet drilled, nor to applications for permits in non-shale formations. The seven (7) shale wells already permitted and the many more already-permitted sandstone and dolostone wells will provide plenty of opportunities for the industry to drill through the slow winter season. In New York the industry suffers from a lack of drilling equipment. Nor did the legislation prevent the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) from accepting and processing new applications during the 5-month moratorium. It also provided the gas corporations with the excuse to invoke Force Majeure clauses in their contracts with landowners, thus extending their leasing periods into better weather and, they hoped, better prices.

The Executive Order Paterson issued after vetoing the legislation only extended the de facto moratorium that began two years ago, during which time the DEC was to propose and take comment on a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement. That SGEIS was to deal with the huge increase in impacts due to the nature of the novel HDHVHF technology, which had been exempted from federal environmental laws by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Since the Governor's budget cuts savaged the very department that was to promulgate the SGEIS, it is unlikely that the DEC would have finished its task before July 1 anyway.

The EO applies only to horizontal wells, whereas the vetoed legislation had applied - if only symbolically - to the smaller vertical shale wells. Since the industry must first everywhere drill vertical wells to assess the mile-deep shale formations before committing to the $5million horizontal wells, the EO has no effect on industry timetables: they will drill their vertical wells this winter/spring unimpeded, and be better prepared to follow up on July 2, 2011 with their real prize: 640-acre HDHVHF drilling units with six-to-ten wells per pad, consuming 5 million gallons of fresh water mixed with 40,000 gallons of toxic chemicals per well.

Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo should not take the easy way out by extending the EO to July 1, 2011. He needs to understand that the entire process of HDHVHF is inherently dangerous, in addition to preventing the state from aggressively moving towards insulation and conservation measures in every building in the state, along with small-scale renewable and/or passive sources of energy.

The Green Party has only one goal with regard to un-natural gas drilling in New York: ban it.