FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 29, 2010

Erica Ringewald (518) 210-9903 or [email protected], Environmental Advocates of New York
Daniella Nordin (518) 462-5526 x239, Environmental Advocates of New York
Roger Downs (518) 944-0992, Sierra Club—Atlantic Chapter
Deborah Goldberg (212) 791-1881×227, Earthjustice
Kate Slusark (212) 727-4592 or [email protected], NRDC
Tina Posterli (914) 478-4501 x239, Riverkeeper

State Leaders Must Put Safe Drinking Water ahead of Gas Industry Profits

(Albany, NY) – With the New York State Legislature scheduled to return to the Capitol to participate in a special Legislative Session today, organizations are demanding action on a critical bill that would enact a timeout on hydraulic fracturing, often called “fracking,” for natural gas.

“The time is now for the Assembly to choose clean water over dirty drilling. The New York State Senate has taken a stand to protect our drinking water from the environmental dangers of fracking for natural gas,” said Katherine Nadeau, Water & Natural Resources Program Director, Environmental Advocates of New York. “Now it’s time for the Assembly to show whose side they are on and put New Yorkers ahead of the gas industry.”

The bill, A.11443B, sponsored by Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), would suspend the issuance of permits to hydraulically fracture wells in New York State until May 15, 2011. In addition to providing the incoming governor and his administration with an opportunity for a fresh look at the issues surrounding gas development, this suspension would also provide the State Legislature with the chance to make necessary changes to the state’s oil and gas permitting program.

“New York should set the standard with its drilling regulations—not play catch-up. We’ve seen far too much drilling-related contamination right next door in Pennsylvania—and elsewhere in the country—where regulatory programs are plainly inadequate to prevent sometimes irreversible environmental and public health catastrophes,” said Earthjustice attorney Deborah Goldberg. “Before the rigs move in from Texas, we need time to make sure our air, water, and health will be protected.”

“As it stands today we have completely inadequate and outdated regulations for gas drilling in New York State. This time out will give the Governor and the legislature time to look deeper into the issue; we should not go forward with gas development unless it is safe. It will be too late too late to go back and change regulations after our groundwater is contaminated,” said Wes Gillingham, Program Director for Catskill Mountainkeeper.

“Drilling for natural gas in New York anytime soon would be a disaster,” stated Paul Gallay, Executive Director and Hudson Riverkeeper. “New York’s environment needs this moratorium to ensure that the tragic effects drilling has had in other states do not happen here.”

“New York still has a chance to stand up to the big oil and gas corporations knocking on our door,” said Kate Sinding, Deputy Director of the New York Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We must send a message to these powerful outsiders: No new drilling unless they can show us it’s safe for our health and communities. New Yorkers overwhelmingly support taking stand for these common sense safeguards—our representatives in Albany must heed our call.”

“The New York State Assembly can protect us all by passing a moratorium on fracking gas in New York State,” said Dereth Glance, Executive Program Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “The ‘fracking time-out’ protects taxpayers and the environment by providing time for the Legislature and the new Governor to ensure industrial gas drilling does not foul the air that we breathe and the water we drink,” Glance added.

“It’s imperative to take the time to put strong regulations and safeguards for health and the environment in place before permitting ‘extreme energy’ development like deep shale gas extraction,” said Nadia Steinzor, Marcellus Regional Organizer for EARTHWORKS Oil & Gas Accountability Project. “Problems associated with hydraulic fracturing are occurring nationwide, and the Legislature has a responsibility to all New Yorkers to slow down the rush to drill.”

“The Legislature has a key role to play in protecting New York from drilling’s dangers and an Assembly vote today will give us more time to fix holes in the DEC permitting program,” said Roger Downs, Conservation Program Manager for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “Currently the DEC can not regulate the water withdrawals from drilling, ban toxic chemicals used in fracking, or control the numbers of their rapidly shrinking inspection staff. The Assembly must answer the call for help.”

The State Senate recognized the potential dangers of fracking by passing the measure by a wide margin earlier this year. In an interview with WAMC Public Radio last week, Governor David Paterson said that New York State should put public safety and water quality concerns ahead of the potential profits to be made by natural gas exploration.

New York is a battleground in the national debate about natural gas drilling and fracking, an environmentally dangerous technique for extracting gas from underground shale deposits. Fracking-related accidents across the country have contaminated drinking water, created air quality hazards and violations, and polluted streams.

The groups calling on the Assembly to pass the timeout for fracking include Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Catskill Mountainkeeper, EARTHWORKS Oil & Gas Accountability Project, Earthjustice, Environmental Advocates of New York, Natural Resources Defense Council, Riverkeeper, and Sierra Club-Atlantic Chapter.

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