Although the state Department of Environmental Conservation extended the deadline for drafting regulations to oversee shale exploration, local business and energy groups are asking for an end to the delay.
Last month prior to the DEC extending its deadline, a group of landowners, farmers, businesses, industry and construction trade groups called for state officials to move forward with shale gas development.
''We are ready to move forward on shale gas development," said Mike Elmendorf, The Associated General Contractors of New York State president and chief executive officer. ''From Pennsylvania to Colorado, we've seen that shale gas development is proven to be safe. It will pump billions of dollars into New York's economy and generate tax revenue to help rebuild our deteriorating infrastructure."
Bill Gill, Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York executive director, said the natural gas industry has an outstanding safety record in New York state.
''The more than 5,000 men and women currently employed here are proud of that, and they are eager to welcome more New Yorkers to this workforce,'' he said. ''The energy industry is essential to our society. These are solid, well-paying jobs, from laborers to scientists.''
Sponsoring organizations include the Associated General Contractors of New York, Business Council of New York State, Friends of Natural Gas NY, Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce, Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, Rebuild New York Now, Southern Tier Economic Growth, Unshackle Upstate and Farm Bureaus representing Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Schuyler, Sullivan, Steuben and Tioga counties.
STATE REPRESENTATIVES OFFER OPINIONS
State Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-C-I-Chautauqua County, said the first commercial natural gas well in the nation was drilled in Fredonia in 1821.
''Chautauqua County now has more natural gas wells than an other county in New York state, about 5,000 wells, the vast majority of which have been fracked. Fracking has been done safely in Chautauqua County for more than 60 years,'' he said. ''New York state should move forward quickly to allow drilling for Marcellus natural gas, consistent with appropriate environmental standards to address the larger volume of fracking fluids that are used for these deeper wells.''
Goodell said from a financial perspective, the Marcellus natural gas would result in lower natural gas costs to New York consumers. It would also result in lower electric costs as utilities switch from more expensive coal to the less expensive natural gas. Lower utility costs would help both residents and businesses, and would help make New York state more business competitive. The revenues to local landowners would also be a great boost to the local economy.
''From an environmental perspective, the switch by utilities from coal to natural gas will result in a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gases,'' he said. ''Indeed, natural gas is one of the cleanest fuels available in the world. Already, the amount of greenhouse gases produced in the United States has dropped below the amounts produced 20 years ago because of the switch from coal to natural gas, according to a recent report from the federal government.''
Goodell said there have been several bills proposed in the state Assembly to impose a legislative moratorium or to shut down the oil and gas industry.
''I have opposed these bills on the floor of the Assembly because these bills would have a serious adverse impact on the local economy and the environment,'' he said. ''The local oil and gas industry employs about 4,500 people in Western New York according to (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority). Natural gas drilling has an estimated $150 to $200 million impact on the economy, plus all the royalties paid to local landowners.''
State Sen. Cathy Young, R-C-I-Olean, said regulations must be put in place to ensure drilling is done safely.
''Currently, hydraulic fracturing is under the authority of Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo, not the state Legislature. More specifically, the Department of Environmental Conservation is working on drafting regulations to oversee shale exploration. The DEC recently extended the deadline for regulations by 90 days, giving them more time to finalize proposals. The 90-day extension also coincides with when the DEC expects the Department of Health's review to be completed,'' she said.
Sen. Young added a new comment period begins on Dec. 12. To date, the DEC has already received more than 80,000 comments on the topic and the DEC commissioner, Joseph Martens, said he anticipates the regulations will be completed soon.
CONGRESSMAN REED'S OPINION
U.S. Rep. Tom Reed of the 23rd congressional district has posted on his website which reads, "Our country has been blessed with plentiful reserves of natural gas. The Marcellus Shale, in our own back yard, is one domestic energy source that should be developed. A Penn State University study concludes there are recoverable reserves of at least 489 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, which is enough to meet our country's natural gas needs for the next 100 years, at current consumption levels."