Breaking: NY Will Allow Fracking in Select (Few) Locations

stop pressBreaking News: The fight over fracking in New York is about to go very local—down to the township level. The New York Times is reporting that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will soon announce a plan that will allow hydraulic fracturing in a few select counties in New York, most of them along or near the border with Pennsylvania. His plan will limit hydraulic fracturing to only those counties AND townships within those counties that actually want drilling—at least for “the next several years.”

Why limit it? To “reduce the risk of groundwater contamination.” And because he’s trying to placate both sides of the fracking debate. His environmentalist supporters are going to abandon him if he doesn’t at least make some moves to appease them.

Fait accompli. The anti-drillers will not view this as a victory, but it is—for them. This plan buys anti-drillers another two years or more to continue agitating and demagoguing the issue of hydraulic fracturing and mount wave after wave of protests at town board meetings. It’s about to be an interesting couple of years for those of us who live in New York and support drilling (not that the past four long years have been boring).

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration is pursuing a plan to limit the controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing to portions of several struggling New York counties along the border with Pennsylvania, and to permit it only in communities that express support for the technology.

The plan, described by a senior official at the State Department of Environmental Conservation and others with knowledge of the administration’s strategy, would limit drilling to the deepest areas of the Marcellus Shale rock formation, at least for the next several years, in an effort to reduce the risk of groundwater contamination.

Even within that southwest New York region — primarily Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga Counties — drilling would be permitted only in towns that agree to it, and would be banned in Catskill Park, aquifers and nationally designated historic districts.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations in the administration are still continuing.

The strategy has not been made final and details could change, but it has been taking shape over several months. It would be contingent on hydraulic fracturing’s receiving final approval from state regulators, a step that is not a foregone conclusion but is widely expected later this summer. Department of Environmental Conservation regulators last year signaled their initial support for the drilling process around the state, with exceptions for environmentally sensitive areas like New York City’s upstate watershed.*

Cuomo’s Niagara Falls tightrope act, or, trying to please everyone:

Mr. Cuomo’s administration is now trying to acknowledge the economic needs of the rural upstate area, while also honoring the opposition expressed in some communities, and limiting the ire of environmentalists, who worry that hydrofracking could contaminate groundwater and lead to other hazards. The administration had initially expected to allow 75 hydrofracking permits in the first year, but now expects to reduce that to 50.*

MDN wonders if any drillers will bother showing up with natural gas prices as low as they now are, no existing infrastructure (pipelines) in place, and with what will be perhaps be the strictest drilling rules in the country. Drill in NY, really? When PA sits right across the border and actually welcomes drilling? More reasonable rules in PA, and lower taxes. What would you do if you were a driller?

This is a sad day for New York landowners.

*New York Times (Jun 13, 2012) – Cuomo Plan Would Limit Gas Drilling to a Few Counties in New York