A Lame Duck Sends Mixed Signals
Lame duck and outgoing New York Governor David Paterson made a surprising move over the weekend when he chose to veto the hydraulic fracturing moratorium legislation approved by the State Legislature and instead issued an executive order that allows fracking for specific types of drilling. While the moratorium on new drilling will be extended, which is good, the moratorium is only applied to hydraulic fracturing for horizontal drilling, which is bad. Paterson’s veto weakens regulations, makes things a bit more confusing and creates opportunities for the continued use of hydraulic fracturing for vertical drilling— just what energy companies were wishing for this holiday season.
Paterson’s executive order has three major components. First, he made a distinction between vertical and horizontal drilling, placing the moratorium on fracking for horizontal drilling only, even though both drilling methods potentially threaten water supplies with their use of toxic chemicals. Second, his order will extend the moratorium specifically on horizontal fracking until July 1, 2011, at which point the gates will open for energy companies to begin (or resume) this practice. Third, Paterson’s order creates an opening for industry’s high-volume horizontal drilling before the EPA has a chance to share their official report on whether or not fracking endangers water supplies — due out in 2012. This is what environmental groups have been trying to prevent from happening all along.
The time between now and July 1 is apparently designated for the State Department of Environmental Conservation to conduct a full review of the drilling process. But while Paterson might think distinguishing between the different types of drilling will protect New York drilling jobs, he’s really compromising efforts to protect water from the dangers of fracking.
Despite efforts to slow down this process and ensure that people and resources are protected from potential hazards, fracking continues to quickly expand and envelop the Marcellus Shale states. Even the Delaware River Water Basin Commission (DRWBC) — normally tasked with protecting public resources and safety — bowed to industry preferences and drafted regulations that pave the way for expansion in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.
Paterson’s veto is the latest in a series of conflicting messages he’s been sending on drilling recently. In 2009, he stressed the importance of safe development in the Marcellus Shale region and then cut staff at the Department of Environmental Conservation, which regulates drilling. The radio interview he gave the day before Thanksgiving included strong language against drilling, but now he has vetoed the moratorium. Is Paterson trying to confuse people, or is he confused, himself? More importantly, what can we expect from Governor-Elect Andrew Cuomo?
Take action now to stop fracking!