New York State Not Prepared to Cope with Fracking Risks

The Environmental Working Group warns New York officials that the state currently lacks the resources and knowledge to adequately protect residents and public water supplies from the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. EWG submitted comments to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on the agency’s draft environmental impact assessment of fracking and commented separately on its proposed regulations of natural gas drilling. 

Highlights of EWG’s comments:

  • Natural gas drilling is risky. Oil and gas company filings with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission regularly cite fires, explosions, spills, bodily injury, limited insurance and even death as significant risks of drilling operations, EWG’s review found.
  • The state lacks the resources to effectively monitor increased drilling. New York currently has 14 inspectors to oversee 13,000 existing gas and oil wells. It also lacks facilities to treat wastewater produced by the drilling process.
  • Costly water contamination. It would cost at least $8 billion to build a water filtration plant to remedy drilling pollution, according to the state agency’s own estimates. In some cases, pollution of drinking water supplies could be irreversible at any price.
  • Inadequate safeguards. The proposed rules would allow drilling as close as 500 feet from private water wells, even though documented cases in other states have shown that underground pollution can spread as far as 4,000 feet horizontally from the drilling site. Setbacks from wells should be measured from the furthest extent of drilling activity, not just from the well pad. The proposed rules would also allow drilling in areas that have experienced extreme flooding, which could cause soil and water pollution.
  • Few jobs for residents. About 77 percent of the jobs created by drilling will be filled by transient, out-of-state workers, according to department estimates. It will take 30 years before New Yorkers fill 90 percent of the production-related jobs.
  • Better public disclosure. The proposed regulations lack sufficient clarity and scope to adequately inform residents about the known safety and environmental hazards.

EWG strongly urged New York regulators to conduct further scientific research before opening the door to high-volume fracking and await the results of studies being conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before taking action. Premature, inadequately informed decisions could have disastrous, long-term consequences for the people of New York.

EWG’s comments are available here:

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