Arcuri urges Paterson to withdraw horizontal drilling draft, governor says no

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Congressman Michael Arcuri is the latest person to tell Governor David Paterson to slow down on bringing horizontal drilling to New York State, but the Governor has said no, the state regulatory process will continue.

On Friday morning, environmental groups from around Otsego County listened to a ten minute speech from Congressman Arcuri on the issue of horizontal drilling at the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown.

After the speech, those in attendance had the chance to ask questions. Many were looking for federal help in stopping Governor Paterson from allowing companies to come into New York State and drill for natural gas horizontally.

The new drilling technique used in other states actually drills some four thousand feet below the earth and then fractures the shale some four thousand feet in each direction using high pressured water. Arcuri says the regulatory process is a state issue, so his hands are tied, but he is urging Paterson to withdraw the draft regulations on horizontal drilling, officially called the Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, or (DSGEIS).

Late Friday afternoon, Governor Paterson Spokesperson Morgan Hook told NEWSChannel 2, the governor believes too much work has been done in the past year to start from scratch, but the DEC will review the more than 10,000 comments submitted regarding the issue before the December 31st state deadline for comments before issuing a final GEIS.

Arcuri is in agreement with the environmental groups, that the state's draft of regulations for horizontal drilling are way too vague and don't protect the state's surface water from being contaminated. He told the crowd, "there was no input from the department of health, so I mean, clearly we should have input from not just people who understand the geology which is not me, but we also need the people who understand the health ramifications as well."

The Congressman says some of the other issues not addressed in the draft include no information on whether there should be a cap on the number of wells in a certain area. He said, "is one well ok per acre, or can we put five per acre? And if we put five, what does that do to the likelihood of pollution."

Arcuri is also concerned that none of the workers brought in by the gas companies will be local workers, "who's working in these places, they're bringing people in from outside of New York to work on these drilling rigs, in these areas, and they're not even putting local New Yorkers to work, they're taking the natural resource, they're bringing people from outside and we're risking polluting our water, so I think we're going too fast with this thing."

Some of the issues Arcuri says are not addressed in the draft involves how the process will be monitored, who will pay for the numerous workers to be out making sure everything is going as planned and that water is not being contaminated.

He said, "when New York re-emerges as the Empire State, it will not be because of our natural gas supplies, it will not be because of anything else, it will be because of the abundance of our fresh clean water that we have her, that is the reason that we will succeed."

Arcuri told the crowd of more than 100 he met with two gas company officials recently who told him they would not drill near New York City, but would drill upstate. Arcuri talked of one of the specific conversations he had with one of those executives.

He said, "you're not drilling in the New York City watershed because you fear that it's going to create a problem...and he said they have a unique water system. I said no, no, their water system is no more unique than ours, it just happens to deal with significantly more than Upstate New York, so forgive me for being parochial, but I'm going to defend the whole state at this point. If you can't do it there, and you don't think you should do it there, then you shouldn't do it here until you get it right."

As far as the DEC taking the thousands of comments into consideration before coming up with a final GEIS. Arcuri responded, "well, I think the report needs to address these things and it does not. The DEC doesn't talk about these things, it doesn't matter how much you comment on it, I need to know what the answers to these things are. Not just I do, but I think we all need to know it."

Oneonta City Alderman Erik Miller was in attendance, he says he believes the DEC will take the comments into consideration, and hopes to see a completely different final version, from the draft.

The alderman said, "there are a lot of loopholes, there are major issues where the state looked at the socio-economic benefits, but never looked at the socio-economic costs, so it's a very unbalanced document as it stands today."

A DEC spokesperson told NEWSChannel 2 in late December that there is no time frame of when the final GEIS will be released.

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