New York State Tightens Drilling Controls
New York state will require drilling companies to disclose all chemicals used to exploit natural gas deposits in upstate New York. That’s according to Judith Enck, deputy secretary for the environment for Gov. David Paterson.
Enck made the announcement in an exclusive interview with WNYC radio, just hours after the release of ProPublica’s and WNYC’s joint investigation into the state’s regulatory and environmental oversight of the gas industry in New York.
The investigation found that state environment officials were slow to learn that toxic chemicals were part of the gas drilling process and that those chemicals are typically held as competitive trade secrets by industry. It also found that the state doesn’t have a comprehensive plan for supplying the vast quantities of water needed for drilling or treating that water once it is mixed with the chemicals.
Today’s announcement by Enck marks a departure for state officials. When questioned over the past month by WNYC and ProPublica, officials at the state Department of Environmental Conservation repeatedly declined to say whether they would require disclosure of the chemicals involved in the drilling.
It remains unclear how the drilling companies would deal with the millions of gallons of waste water the wells would produce. Treatment plants would need to know the identities of any contaminants in order to remove them fully from water before discharging it back into the state’s rivers.
The promise of abundant natural gas is colliding with fears about water contamination.
The Story So Far
The country’s push to find clean domestic energy has zeroed in on natural gas, but cases of water contamination have raised serious questions about the primary drilling method being used. Vast deposits of natural gas, large enough to supply the country for decades, have brought a drilling boom stretching across 31 states. The drilling technique being used, called hydraulic fracturing, shoots water, sand and toxic chemicals into the ground to break up rock and release the gas.