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PORTSIDE  December 2010, Week 3

PORTSIDE December 2010, Week 3

Subject:

Executive Order Suspending Fracking Brings Little Change

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Date:

Mon, 20 Dec 2010 00:42:38 -0500

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Executive Order Suspending Fracking Brings Little Change
by Sasha Chavkin
ProPublica
December 17, 2010
http://www.propublica.org/article/executive-order-suspending-fracking-brings-little-change

When New York Gov. David Paterson recently vetoed a bill
that would have placed a temporary moratorium on new
permits for hydraulic fracturing, he issued an executive
order that instead suspended the approval of certain
types of these permits until after July 1, 2011. "I am
proud to issue this Executive Order," Paterson said in a
statement [1], "which will guarantee that before any
high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing is
permitted, the Department of Environmental Conservation
will complete its studies and certify that such
operations are safe."

But Paterson's executive order does little to change the
status quo, according to experts who've been following
the drilling issue. The DEC has already stopped issuing
such permits in the Marcellus Shale formation, the area
covered under Paterson's order, until it completes its
ongoing review of the practice's safety. The next draft
of that review isn't expected to be released until the
middle of next year, about the same time the governor's
executive order says the moratorium will expire.

Technically, however, the executive order expires when
Paterson leaves office next month unless Governor-elect
Andrew Cuomo chooses to renew it. Cuomo's transition
team didn't return calls for this article; neither did
the Attorney General's office, where he currently
serves. In a Nov. 11 radio interview on WOR, Cuomo said
he won't approve additional fracking [2] "until the
facts are determined by bona fide studies."

New York's former DEC commissioner, Pete Grannis, said
the executive order was "more of a political cover than
a substantive effect on the ongoing work of the
department." Paterson fired Grannis in October after a
memo Grannis wrote criticizing Paterson's proposed
budget cuts was leaked to the press.

"With or without the executive order, the department is
not going to complete its work on the document and
proceed any sooner than the moratorium would have
expired," said Grannis, who is now the special counsel
for the nonprofit group Environmental Advocates of New
York.

Hydraulic fracturing [3] -- also known as fracking -- is
a drilling practice in which fluids are shot underground
at high pressures to release gas from bedrock. It has
become controversial due to concerns about water
contamination, particularly in New York, where residents
receive drinking water that is so pure that it requires
little treatment.

The bill Paterson vetoed would have suspended any new
permits for fracking until May 2011. Paterson vetoed the
legislation [4] on Dec. 11, stating that its language
was overly broad and would result in jobs being lost
even for types of drilling that cause "no demonstrated
environmental harm." His moratorium is narrower,
focusing on horizontally-drilled wells, in which
drillers probe underground shale seams laterally, in the
Marcellus Shale formation.

"The DEC has approximately 58 applications considered
pending and not acted upon, and no action would be
expected on those applications until the review is
finished," said department spokesman Yancey Roy.

Roy said "there's no prescribed timeline right now" for
completion of the review. But Kate Sinding, a senior
attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council, expects
it to take significantly longer than the time allotted
by Paterson's moratorium, in light of the transition
between governors, expected budget cuts, and the
extensive public comments expected on the issue.

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