Gov. David Paterson (D-NY) this week signed a bill to update the state’s laws governing oil and gas drilling, at the same time making sure that the public knew his Administration was going to be vigilant about environmental consequences. (News release.)
The broadly supported legislation addresses spacing units and setback requirements and is intended to encourage and/or rationalize horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, key processes for developing the Marcellus Shale’s natural gas deposits. The question now becomes whether the Paterson Administration will carry out the regulatory implementation and oversight with the intention of making the law work or will be so sensitive to environmental activists, advocacy journalism and political pressure as to sabotage the energy development (and Upstate’s economy) in the process.
One has to give the administration the benefit of the doubt, but there’s still cause for concern. In an interview on the public radio station WNYC, Paterson’s deputy secretary for the environment, Judith Enck, laid out a series of regulatory requirements, monitoring and controls, reasonable enough sounding, and, you bet, bet attention to water quality is critical. But in saying that the companies must disclose all the chemicals being used in the drilling process and other comments, Enck seems to buy into the thesis of drilling’s opponents and their allies in media outfits like WNYC and ProPublica, advocacy that produces banner headlines like the Albany Times-Union’s:
Upstate New York’s looming natural gas nightmare
Regulators asleep as lawmmakers attempt to declare vast acreage open to the energy industry’s iffy underground fracturing technique
Or today’s headline, “Paterson approves law on risky gas drilling”
Iffy underground fracturing technique? Risky gas drilling? Good grief. May look that way from an Albany newsroom or the Upper West Side of Manhattan, but …good grief. From a very good API briefing/fact sheet on hydrofracking:
Application of hydraulic fracturing techniques, to increase oil and gas recovery, is estimated to account for 30 percent of U.S. recoverable oil and gas reserves and has been responsible for the addition of more than 7 billion barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas to meet the nation’s energy needs.
So iffy it accounts for 30 percent of U.S. oil and gas production.
Maybe we’re overreacting, but we’ve seen far too many examples of activists helping to generate media reports, which are then seized by the activists to generate even more media reports, which alarm the alarmable politicians, who propose more regulations that damage the economy but satisfy their core voters so everybody’s happy except why is my heating bill so high?
If enough obstacles can be thrown up in New York to hamper development of the Marcellus Shale’s great potential, then that “success” will be used to try to stop natural gas production throughout the Appalachian States. And energy security will be ever further away.