Monday, January 30, 2012

Future of NY Fracking Seems to be Faltering by Steve Israel

What once seemed inevitable — hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in New York state in general and Sullivan County in particular — now seems much less certain.

Here's why:

  • Geologists, industry insiders and at least one top industry official continue to insist that most, if not all, of the gas in the Marcellus shale beneath Sullivan isn't worth drilling.

  • Bottom line?

    "Given all this, the rational thing for gas companies to do is what they're doing — go west," says Mike Uretsky of nearby Pennsylvania, a member of an energy task force established by the National Petroleum Council at the request of Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

  • One of the nation's largest natural gas producers — Chesapeake, whose official recently said Sullivan is "not a target zone" — just decided to "cut our dry gas drilling to bare minimum levels."
  • The Delaware River Basin Commission, which was supposed to vote on its regulations to allow drilling along the Delaware — bordering western Sullivan — indefinitely postponed that vote.
  • The head of the New York state agency that once vowed hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, "can be done safely" in the state, now qualifies that Department of Environmental Conservation position with a big "if" — as in drilling will move forward in New York "only if "» the potential risks to the public health and the environment can be adequately mitigated."
  • Even Gov. Cuomo seems to be hedging his bets, although the state surely needs the revenue drilling would bring. When asked whether he would request money in the 2012 ­budget for additional DEC staffers to regulate drilling, he recently said: "You would not be hiring staff to regulate hydrofracking unless you believed you were going ahead with hydrofracking. And we haven't made that determination. So the budget won't anticipate hydrofracking approval."
  • All of this, and the industry itself says the proposed drilling regulations in New York are "too restrictive and inhibit economic growth," according to the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York. They're regulations that will likely become even stricter once the DEC finalizes them after reading and responding to the more than 40,000 public comments.continue>>>>
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