ALBANY — The state's long awaited regulations for "fracking" would ban such drilling for natural gas in the New York City watershed — a tiny fraction of which is in Sullivan County — and in the Syracuse watershed.
The proposed regulations, which will be given to Gov. Andrew Cuomo Friday, also would prohibit fracking within primary aquifers like reservoirs and lakes, and within 500 feet of their boundaries, according to a summary released Thursday by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The Delaware River basin, which covers much of western Sullivan County — and sits on the gas-rich Marcellus Shale — is not included in the ban on the controversial horizontal drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing.
And while the state's proposed regulations would not allow that drilling on the surface of state-owned land, including parks, forests and wildlife management areas, fracking would apparently be permitted beneath the land.
While the recommendations aim to strike a balance between environmental protection and economic development, about 85 percent of Marcellus Shale in the Southern Tier — along with much of Sullivan — would be available for drilling under the proposed rules that are sure to elicit thousands of comments in a 60-day public comment period beginning in August.
No permits for drilling can be issued until those comments are reviewed and a final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement is released. The final version of regulations will become state law, which would further extend the delay for drilling permits.
Other highlights of the summary include:
- No permits will be issued within 500 feet of a private water well.
- Drilling will not be allowed within 2,000 feet of a public well or reservoir until at least three years of experience elsewhere have been evaluated.
- Drilling must be consistent with local zoning.
- No permits will be issued within a 100-year flood plain.
- The DEC must approve plans for wastewater disposal.
- Drillers must disclose the ingredients of all fracking fluids — which contain toxic chemicals — to the DEC. The additives must be made public "subject to appropriate protections for proprietary information."
While the DEC touts the proposed environmental protections, one leading anti-drilling group slammed the summary.
"A road map for the industrialization of the Catskills; the fact that the Delaware River isn't protected is outrageous," said Ramsay Adams, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper. "It's clear they haven't developed a plan to deal with wastewater and there's no cumulative impact study. We'll fight like hell to stop this."
Pro drillers said they needed more time to review the recommendations, which will be released July 8.
"IOGA of New York looks forward to reviewing the (recommendations) to determine if the protections ... strike a fair balance between protecting New York's environment and allowing the expansion of natural gas exploration," Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, said.