New York lawmakers close loophole in fracking ban

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday that expand the state’s existing fracking ban preventing natural gas drilling companies from using an extraction method that involves injecting huge amounts of liquid carbon dioxide into the ground.

The state Senate approved the legislation with some opposition from Republican lawmakers. It will now fall to Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is in the midst of negotiations over the state budget. The state Assembly passed the bill on March 12.

New York has already banned hydraulic fracturing, which involves using a water-based solution to extract natural gas. But some lawmakers rushed to draft the new legislation after a Texas company tried to lease land in New York for drilling last fall. They said the company Southern Tier Solutions is trying to exploit a loophole in existing law by drilling with carbon dioxide instead of water.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ​​told reporters during a news conference Wednesday that while she has not yet discussed the legislation with the governor, she is hopeful it will become law.

“There is concern that if we don’t close this loophole sooner rather than later, it will basically open the proverbial door for further exploration, which will also be problematic,” Democratic state Sen. Lea Webb said before the conference. The vote. Among the thousands of candidates solicited by the company were many of Webb’s members in the Southern Region, a region that straddles the Pennsylvania border.

The region has been the focus of energy companies because of its wealth of natural gas, which is trapped underground in large rock formations.

Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping large amounts of water, sand and chemicals thousands of feet underground, under pressure intense enough to break layers of rock containing deposits of oil or natural gas in order to extract the fossil fuel. Fracking, which is banned in some states including Vermont and Maryland, can cause earthquakes and has raised concerns about groundwater contamination.

State Sen. Thomas O’Mara, a Republican who voted against the bill, said during floor deliberations that the move to expand the fracking ban is premature.

“This utopian approach is a collapsing disaster,” he said.

New York State reinforces the existing ban on fracking by banning fracking with the use of liquid carbon injection. #fracking #NewYork #climatecrisis

Southern Tier Solutions says on its website that it wants to use carbon captured from power plants to extract natural gas from inside the Marcellus and Utica Shales, vast rock formations that stretch for hundreds of miles.

Company officials and its president, Bryce P. Phillips, have not responded to telephone and email requests from The Associated Press. But in previous interviews, Phillips said swapping water for liquid carbon dioxide could be more environmentally friendly.

Supporters of the bill and some lawmakers expressed concern that pipelines carrying carbon dioxide for extraction could break, leading to poor air quality and serious health risks.

They pointed to a 2020 incident in the small town of Satartia, Mississippi, where a pipeline carrying compressed carbon dioxide burst, sending more than 40 people to the hospital for treatment, prompting the evacuation of more than 300 people.

Sandra Steingraber, a retired biologist and anti-fracking activist, applauded the bill’s passage. She maintains that any type of drilling, no matter what type of substance is used, is bad for the environment.

“They dealt with this very quickly because they recognized how damaging it was,” he said of lawmakers’ response. “It’s all risk and no reward for the state of New York following this plan.”


Maysoon Khan is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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