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Source: YNN Buffalo

Public comment closes on hydrofracking


Posted: January 16, 2012
Originally Published: January 11, 2012

BUFFALO, N.Y. - With the public comment period closing Wednesday, opponents of hydrofracking in Western New York gathered outside the DEC office in Buffalo. They are urging state leaders to listen to what they say is the will of the people.

Rita Yelda, of consumer group Food and Water Watch asked, "Who is going to win? Is it going to be a large industry that maybe has billions to spend on campaign contributions and advertisements, or is it going to be the true voice of the people?"

Food and Water Watch said it recently gathered 650 signatures, more than 50 letters from local businesses and nearly 200 comments in Western New York, all supporting a ban of hydrofracking, which uses a mixture of sand, chemicals and water to access underground gas reserves. Thousands of public comments have been submitted across the state.

"This together is unprecedented public participation that the governor can not ignore, must not ignore," said Brian Smith of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Environmentalists are not the only ones that oppose the recommended hydrofracking regulations. The Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York said the restrictions are too strong, limiting accessibility to land.

"That means your investment in the leases is lost and that means the landowners who have valuable mineral rights, oil and gas rights, don't get those rights developed," said Tom West, IOGA attorney.

Many business leaders say they support fracking.

"Hydraulic fracturing represents high paying job in a part of the state where it has suffered severely during this economic recession," said Heather Briccetti, president of the Business Council of NY.

Bans on fracking in the Syracuse and New York City watersheds are recommended by the DEC , but not in Western New York. Opponents say that could mean the area gets hit the hardest, noting past mishaps like Love Canal and toxic hotspots in the Great Lakes.

"We've been here before. Today we are paying the price for yesterday's mistakes at the cost of tens of billions of dollars and severe degradation to our environment," said Smith.

The New York State DEC said if it moves forward with high-volume hydraulic fracturing, it will move forward with the strictest standards in the nation to make sure New York's drinking water and other natural resources are protected.