EPA warns about oil drilling in NYC watershed

The EPA is warning the state Department of Environmental Conservation that they need to do a lot more homework before they finalize the rules for natural gas drilling in the city's upstate watershed.

The feds submitted comments Wednesday (pdf) on the state's draft plan for regulating hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," in the Marcellus Shale. The state DEC draft report found that fracking, which involves injecting water and chemicals under high pressure to break up shale and release natural gas, is not a threat to New York's water supply.

The EPA, like the NYC DEC and the Bloomberg administration, disagrees. They're asking the state DEC to do further study on possible effects fracking could have on the water supply and air quality, and how wastewater and possible radioactive contamination would be addressed. They also warn that contamination of the city's watershed would mean building filtration plants, which would cost $10 billion in capital costs and $100 million in annual operating costs, and "[c]learly, it is in all our interests to avoid this scenario."

The feds recommend that, given the unknowns, the state Health Department, which oversees water quality, and the Public Service Commission, which oversees natural gas pipelines, should be allowed to co-write the final regulations with the state DEC.

The state DEC has given the matter careful thought

In a statement, Yancey Roy, a spokesman for the State Department of Environmental Conservation, said it "appreciated" the federal agency's comments but had no detailed response. "At this time we are still taking input from the public and it would not be appropriate to respond to specific comments," he said.

which shows a certain evolution from their response to the city DEC report opposing their guidelines

"We appreciate the input from NYCDEP," said DEC spokesman Yancey Roy. "At this time we are still taking input from the public, and it would not be appropriate to respond to specific comments."

The Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York also commented on the draft plan. They think it's too restrictive.

I'm guessing Mr. Roy appreciates that input too.

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