Lentol says more time need to study environmental concerns
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
With the deadline for the end of the legislative session fast approaching, the New York State Assembly voted to suspend drilling natural gas, a process known as hydrofracking, for three years while lawmakers study the environmental impact.
Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D-Greenpoint-Williamsburg) sponsored the bill, which was passed by the assembly on June 18, just one day before the State Legislature’s session was scheduled to end.
“Because of the potential health risks associated with hydrofracking, we have to proceed cautiously,” Lentol said. “We cannot put our families at risk until we know for sure the consequences. The assembly’s legislation gives us time to make an informed decision regarding hydrofracking and the possible beneficial or detrimental effects it could have on us and the environment.”
Technically, Lentol’s bill calls on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to stop issuing natural gas drilling permits until 2017.
Studies are already underway examining the long-term effects of hydrofracking on the environment and public health, according to Lentol, who said many of the studies are expected to be completed within the next three years.
Hydrofracking is a method of extracting natural gas from underground rock formations through the injection of a combination of chemicals and highly pressurized water. There is concern that hydrofracking could have serious negative impacts on the environment and on the health of residents, including contamination of clean drinking water supplies, destruction of surrounding land and habitat and increased air pollution.
“Although hydrofracking can yield enormous amounts of natural gas, we need to get all the facts about the possible risks and hazards. More time is needed to help us decide what is best for our local communities,” Lentol said.
Hydrofracking has become a potent political issue in the state over the past few years.
The New York State Green Party mounted a petition drive calling for an outright ban of the practice, not just a three-year suspension. “We know more than enough about the dangers of hydrofracking and natural gas burning to demand a ban. It's time for New Yorkers to demand a permanent ban, not another temporary moratorium!” a statement on the party’s website reads.
But pro-hydrofracking groups aren’t giving up.
The Albany Times Union reported last year that experts speaking at a meeting of an upstate landowners group stated that concerns about potential health and environmental hazard were overblown.
The presentation was sponsored by the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York State, a group representing 77, 000 landowners, many of whom have already signed drilling leases with gas companies, the Times Union reported.
It's also unclear if the State Senate would join with the Assembly in seeking the three-year suspension.