Paterson Pledges Environmentally Responsible Gas Development

ALBANY, New York, July 24, 2008 (ENS) – New York state is preparing for a boom in its natural gas industry.

The industry has expressed an interest in drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation, situated in southwestern New York and the Catskill Mountains.

Most of the Marcellus Shale deposits lie beneath Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio, but smaller deposits extend north to New York, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Currently, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation is considering three applications for gas wells in Chenango, Tioga, and Chemung Counties. They are part of a wave of gas leasing activity that has occurred in parts of northern Pennsylvania and western New York, encouraged by record gas production in 2005.

“Natural gas exploration has the potential to increase domestic supplies of natural gas, create jobs, expand the tax base and benefit the upstate economy,” said Governor David Paterson Wednesday as he signed a bill that regulates the spacing of gas wells.

“My administration is committed to working with the public and local governments to ensure that if the drilling goes forward, it takes place in the most environmentally responsible way possible,” the governor said.

Wells such as this produced enough
natural gas in New York state in
2004 to supply 800,000 homes
for a year. (Photo courtesy DEC)

The bill he signed extends the state’s uniform well spacing system to include additional wells and drilling activity, including horizontal well drilling.

A spacing unit is the land area from which a well is expected to recover oil or gas. The bill adds requirements about how wells may be located within spacing units and how far they must be from the boundaries.

Natural gas production in New York dates back to 1821, but new techniques for extracting the gas are now available.

Because new horizontal drilling techniques will likely be used, Governor Paterson has directed the state Department of Environmental Conservation to prepare an updated Generic Environmental Impact Statement to ensure that all environmental impacts from this type of drilling are addressed.

The update will examine potential impacts from new horizontal drilling techniques, including potential impacts to groundwater, surface water, wetlands, air quality, aesthetics, noise, traffic and community character, as well as cumulative impacts.

The update will occur as part of a public process that ensures that concerns raised by residents who could be affected by drilling activities are heard and considered.

The governor pledges that while the bill streamlines permitting for drillers, it does not relax environmental safeguards.

“This new law will ensure greater efficiency in the processing of requests to permit oil and gas wells, while maintaining environmental and public health safeguards, said Paterson.

The new requirements are intended to result in more effective recovery of oil and natural gas, and reduce unnecessary land disturbance, the governor said.

Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis said, “Let it be clear: DEC will be vigilant in ensuring environmental safeguards. Water protection will be a top priority. As the issue of potential natural gas drilling develops, Governor Paterson and DEC are committed to exercising its authority to protect New Yorkers and their environment.”

In addition, DEC is reviewing a variety of other areas, including staff resources, existing regulations, jurisdiction over water withdrawals, permit application fees and procedures, and legal and regulatory compliance, that could be implicated by increased drilling activity.

Because drilling activity impacts local governments as well, Grannis says the DEC will be looking at ways to enhance the role of local governments in the regulatory process and in achieving compliance.

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