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NY toughens rules on gas drilling in Syracuse watershed

By John Stith/The Post-Standard

April 23, 2010, 5:11PM

Syracuse, NY -- State environmental officials today made it more difficult to use horizontal hydraulic fracturing — hydrofracking — to drill for natural gas in the Skaneateles Lake and Catskills watersheds.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis said that applications to drill in the two watersheds, which supply drinking water to nearly 9 million people in the Syracuse and New York City areas, would be considered on a case-by-case basis, separately from any regulations governing hydrofracking elsewhere in the state.

The two water systems deliver unfiltered surface water to customers.

"In order to better assure the continued use of an unfiltered surface water supply, there must be an additional review process which may result in associated regulatory and other controls on drilling," Grannis said in announcing the policy to protect the watersheds.

The DEC action does not ban drilling outright. Instead, companies must meet special requirements to drill in the watershed, including conducting individual environmental reviews of each drilling site.

The annoucement was praised by Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who called Skaneateles Lake “a truly unique environmental and economic resource.”

“The city of Syracuse has invested millions of dollars over the years in protecting Skaneateles Lake and maintaining the filtration avoidance waiver,” she said in a prepared statement. “We cannot allow hydrofracking to jeopardize the decades of hard work and millions of dollars spent in protecting such an important regional asset.”

Grannis said there are 58 pending applications for hydrofracking in the Marcellus shale, an underground area containing natural gas trapped in rock. None of the applications are for drilling in either watershed.

Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, said companies have drilled through under ground water supplies without problem in the past, but they recognize the public's concern over water supplies.

He said the DEC's action would probably discourage companies from drilling in the watersheds.

“I think companies will have to make their decision on an individual company by company basis as to whether or not they would be interested in leasing and drilling given this extra layer of regulation,” he said.

John Stith can be reached at jstith@syracuse.com or at 251-5718.

 

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There are 194,500 acres represented in the Coalition as of 8/18/2010. The latest gas offers in New York State are $3000/acre with 20% royalties.

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