Both houses of the New York State legislature recently passed a bill for a 6 month moratorium on methane (natural) gas fracking. Citizen concerns about pollution, trampling of land rights, and a groundbreaking new film Gasland have fueled a massive grassroots backlash against companies like Haliburton diving headfirst into the gas rush.
The fracking moratorium bill was vetoed, but Governor David Patterson issued an executive order in its place that does a more limited version of the same thing. The bill would have banned all wells, but the executive order only bans ‘horizontal wells’ – the kind where a drill rig drills sideways to get gas below other people’s property (and drinking water).
The plus : most wells are horizontal, so the order has a big impact. The minus: polluted groundwater flows, so it doesn’t really matter where its contaminated. And the fact that the legislature could send such a clear message on a moratorium and that Patterson still felt the need to ‘bend to industry pressure’ is worrisome.
This issue is far from going away anywhere, and New York is likely to continue to be a central piece of the Haliburton/gas industry strategy to open up every bit of gas to extraction. The EPA is also conducting a 2 year study (2010-2012) on the safety of gas fracking. Residents of New York hope that Lisa Jackson spends more time in impacted communities listening to stories of residents and less time listening to the oil companies.