...Filmmaker Josh Fox began to study hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” when a drilling company tried to lease his land to drill for natural gas. “They asked to lease 19.5 acres on the Upper Delaware River, on the border of New York and Pennsylvania, in a watershed that supplies New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia,” explained Fox in a phone interview. “At one point, they offered us $100,000. We got multiple offers — another one a month ago — I guess they didn’t get the memo about the movie.”
...Despite the gas company’s assurance that drilling would not be invasive, Fox decided to investigate existing drilling sites. He had heard of problems occurring 30 miles away in Dimock, Pennsylvania. “I went there in February 2009,” he recalled, “and found the entire place upside down. It was swarming with huge trucks, people could literally light their water on fire, people and animals were getting sick, and there was an atmosphere of fear and betrayal. After a few trips there, I decided I had to get out West and find out if this situation was the exception or the rule. In Arkansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, and New Mexico, I found a story of contamination and defeat.”
New York City, concerned about possible contamination of its drinking water in the upstate watershed, is opposed to fracking in New York State. A moratorium on drilling was imposed throughout the state last year, while the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) conducted an Environmental Impact Study (EIS). When the study was published last fall, it received over 14,000 public comments. The DEC is now sifting through the comments as part of the process of revising the document. Once the EIS is republished, companies can start applying for permits to drill, unless the state legislature renews the moratorium. To pay for the permit-granting infrastructure, Governor Paterson has proposed a severance tax on gas extraction, similar to the tax under consideration in Pennsylvania.
“It’s not likely the DEC will be rushing this,” said Conor Bambrick, a spokesman for Assemblyman Kevin Cahill. “He has been assured that the DEC will be doing its due diligence.” The bill currently under consideration, the most recent of several proposed, would extend the moratorium until May 15, 2011. “This one has gone the furthest and is currently on the Assembly floor,” explained Bambrick. “The regular session has wrapped up, but a few times a year, the legislature comes back to vote on specific issues. If it comes back into session soon, there’s a good chance it will be voted on.”
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