Written by Thomas P. DiNapoli Friday, 06 January 2012 00:00
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli urged the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to strengthen regulations protecting New Yorkers and communities from possible contamination from natural gas drilling by including his proposal to create a Natural Gas Damage Recovery Fund in the department’s Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program (DSGEIS).
“Accidents can happen during natural gas drilling regardless of how carefully the industry and regulators act in trying to prevent them,” DiNapoli said. “In those instances, New Yorkers should not have to face costly and prolonged delays to clean up contamination. DEC’s revised environmental impact statement and regulations still fall short of addressing how the state would pay for clean-up costs and hold parties that caused the contamination responsible. Establishing a dedicated fund would ensure that hazardous conditions can be cleaned up quickly and responsibly.”
In August, Comptroller DiNapoli proposed a Natural Gas Damage Recovery Fund to remediate contamination and establish an industry-supported fund to cover damages caused by natural gas production, including high-volume hydraulic fracturing. The fund is modeled after New York’s Oil Spill Fund, which DiNapoli oversees with the Office of the Attorney General and DEC. The gas fund would:
• Create regulations to establish a prompt course of action in the event of contamination resulting from natural gas production;
• Provide funds to allow DEC to respond quickly to an emergency related to natural gas production and provide damaged parties with an efficient recourse process;
*Impose strict liability for parties who cause contamination;
• Give the Attorney General authority to recover costs expended by the Natural Gas Damage Recovery Fund from parties who cause contamination; and
• Create a public registry of all gas production-related incidents in New York State.
In his formal comments, DiNapoli also presented his concerns about potential negative economic impacts of the development of shale deposits, including limitations on future land uses and sales due to the placement of gas wells. Because a large number of state residents rely on groundwater, DiNapoli called on DEC to examine whether smaller hydraulic fracturing projects could pose a threat to sensitive resources such as the New York City and Syracuse watersheds and primary aquifers.
The comptroller urged DEC to evaluate whether groundwater moving through aquifers contaminated by gas production could pose a threat to water quality in areas where high-volume hydraulic fracturing is banned.