New Yorkers Fight Fracking

Jason Koski/University Photography

On June 6, a moratorium was passed in the New York State Assembly banning fracking, a natural gas drilling method, for another year. A temporary ban on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is already in effect for the state following concerns about water and air pollution caused by the drilling process.

Hydraulic fracturing uses huge volumes of water at high pressure to break apart rock layers above oil or natural gas deposits. Chemicals and small particulates like sand are typically added to the water to speed up the fracturing process. Opponents of fracking stress that pumping chemically treated water into the ground to break through layers of rock poses a potentially great threat to groundwater in the area.

New York state is home to a significant portion of the Marcellus Shale, which is thought to be an extremely rich natural gas deposit. Industry officials are fighting against this new moratorium, which would prevent new drilling permits from being reviewed until June 1, 2012.

Those in the natural gas industry have expressed frustration about the extended moratorium, insisting that state’s economy will suffer. A spokesperson stated that the ban would cost the state up to 4,500 possible jobs that drilling would provide. But opponents argue that the natural gas deposit will still be there in a year, and it’s more important to study the impacts of fracking in the area before drilling begins on a large scale.

A year ago, a similar ban on fracking was passed by the New York state legislature, but it was vetoed by then-governor David Paterson (R). Instead, Paterson temporarily banned the use of high volume horizontal hydrofracking to give New York State Department of Environmental Conservation time to conduct a study of the drilling method.

The current governor, Andrew Cuomo (D), seems likely to approve of this moratorium, but it has yet to be passed by the state Senate. Food & Water Watch and other groups have mobilized to get the measure passed before the legislative session ends this Friday.