Gennaro measure calls on agency to avert gas drilling

A new resolution passed by the City Council denounces plans to drill for natural gas near the state's water reservoir. AP Photo-Mike Groll
By Anna Gustafson

City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) authored a resolution recently passed by the Council that urges government officials not to approve regulations that would pave the way for gas drilling near the source of drinking water for more than 15 million people, including residents of New York City.

The Delaware River Basin Commission, an agency composed of representatives from four states and the federal governments, is currently taking steps to finalize regulations that would allow hydraulic fracturing to occur in the area near the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. Most of New York City residents get their drinking water from the upstate water shed, which receives water from Delaware River tributaries.

Hydraulic fracturing is a process of extracting natural gas that entails injecting up to 5 million gallons of water laced with chemicals into the ground at high pressure to break the rock. Officials have long criticized the process, saying it poses health risks to the water supply and residents.

“The Council is calling upon the Delaware River Basin Commission to put science and careful study ahead of rule-making when it comes to hydraulic fracturing,” Gennaro said. “It is wrong, I believe, for the DRBC to think that it can develop and issue regulations related to hydraulic fracturing in the absence of a cumulative impact study that would be essential to guide and inform the development of rules for hydraulic fracturing.”

Gennaro’s resolution was passed at the end of September and he announced a copy of the resolution was mailed this week to the commission.

“We need to make sure that we use the power and the voice of the City Council to tell every legislative body that has the power to stop hydraulic fracturing that they need to stop it,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.

The state Senate this summer passed a bill that would place a temporary ban on using hydraulic fracturing near the city’s watershed upstate. Elected officials passed the legislation sponsored by Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) Aug. 4 that would temporarily stop all gas drilling in the watershed until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency completes its study of the effects of natural gas drilling on water and public health. The study began in March and is expected to end within two years.

The state Assembly should vote on the measure this fall.

According to a report prepared by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, seven states in the country have experienced serious incidents of water contamination and explosions near hydraulic fracturing sites.

The method has been criticized by city government officials and environmentalists, who often cite a 2008 report from the U.S. Land Management Bureau that said groundwater in Sublette County, Wyo., which has one of the country’s largest natural gas fields and where hydraulic fracturing was commonly employed, was contaminated with benzene, a substance that has been linked to cancer and nervous system disorders.

Susan Zimet, co-founder of Frack Action, said she was pleased with Gennaro’s resolution.

“This resolution is a critical step forward in telling the DRBC to protect the drinking water of 15 million people, including 8 million New Yorkers,” Zimet said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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