Coalition Of 115 Organizations Urges Governor Hochul To Approve The Fracking Ban

April 15, 2024

115 organizations from across the state released a letter to Governor Hochul urging her to swiftly sign the bill (A8866/ S8357) that bans drilling and fracking.

They ban drilling and fracking for natural gas and oil using carbon dioxide (CO2), to ensure New Yorkers are protected.

The Assembly passed the bill with a bipartisan 98-50 vote on March 12 and the Senate passed it with a bipartisan 45-17 vote on March 20. 

Several environmental organizations, joined by the bill sponsors Senator Webb and Assemblymember Kelles, delivered the letter in person to the Governor’s office today. 


The letter is available here: https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/gov-hochul-ban-co2-fracking-letter/

Many leading environmental, public health, community, and faith groups in the state signed the letter, including Food & Water Watch, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Natural Resources Defense Council, Frack Action, NYPIRG, Earthjustice, NYPIRG, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Concerned Health Professionals of NY, Physicians for Social Responsibility-NY, Environmental Advocates NY, League of Women Voters New York, and many others. 

The legislation is simple and prevents the gas industry from evading the state’s existing ban on fracking. As the letter states, “Our state’s long-standing fracking ban prohibits the use of high volumes of water to extract gas. The legislature quickly passed this new legislation in response to a gas industry proposal to exploit a loophole and get around our state’s fracking ban by using CO2 instead of water. The bill that the legislature passed is thus very simple as it amends the fracking ban within the Environmental Conservation Law to include a prohibition on using CO2. Drilling and fracking with CO2 is an experimental, dangerous new method of shale gas extraction that must not be allowed in New York State.”


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The letter notes that, “Most of the same impacts associated with the entire drilling and fracking process occur whether water or CO2 is used, and scientific research overwhelmingly finds risks and harms associated with these approaches….The use of CO2 to try to evade the state’s fracking ban does not avoid the dangers and harms associated with the process.”

The letter concludes, “Drilling and fracking with CO2 would have the same threats to our water, air, health, and climate as hydraulic fracturing, along with additional dangers. The legislature was right to pass the bill to close the loophole and protect New Yorkers. Now we urge you to sign it into law.”

“The climate movement and state legislators in both houses have moved at lightspeed to pass this ban on CO2 fracking to keep our communities safe and healthy, and to safeguard our climate for future generations. Governor Hochul must waste no time in signing the ban into law,” said Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Region Director at Food & Water Watch.

Senator Lea Webb, Senate bill sponsor, said, “We know that fracking proposes significant health and environmental problems that threaten our communities. Over a decade ago, our State historically led the nation and protected public health and the environment by banning high volume hydraulic fracking. And now, an out-of-state company wants to lease land from my constituents in Broome County to inject carbon dioxide into the shale. We must take action to combat the use of CO2 to prevent any erosion of the progress our state has made in preventing fracking. That is why I have introduced this piece of legislation with my colleagues Assemblymember Kelles, Assemblywoman Lupardo and Senator Krueger to strengthen our fracking laws by banning the use of CO2 before it causes damage to our health and environment.”

Assemblymember Dr. Anna Kelles, Assembly bill sponsor, said, “New York State wisely prohibited high-volume hydraulic fracturing in 2020, and I’m so proud to say once again the Assembly and Senate upheld science and fact to pass the legislation I had the honor to champion to ban the use of pressurized carbon dioxide for gas and oil extraction. No matter what substance is used to frack for gas and oil, it is still fracking. It will still have severe negative health and environmental consequences only exacerbated by the use of a highly corrosive substance that is known to cause pipeline ruptures and destabilization through acidification and demineralization of the very ground under our feet. This bill is closing a loophole in our state’s fracking ban to protect our people, our environment, and our economy.”

Mark Ruffalo, actor, director, and long-time environmental advocate in NY who was deeply involved in the campaign to ban fracking, said, “While New York is working to lead the nation on climate change, the gas industry has come up with a reckless and extreme ploy to get around the state’s fracking ban. Thankfully, New Yorkers know better and are resoundingly rejecting the gas industry once again. I urge Governor Hochul to swiftly sign this bill into law.”

Acclaimed singer/songwriter Natalie Merchant said, “Thanks to the NYS Senate and Assembly, for their tremendous leadership in protecting our public health and environment by passing this bill to close the loophole in the fracking ban law to stop the dangerous proposal to drill and frack using carbon dioxide in New York State. Thanks especially to Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Senator Webb, and Senator Krueger for getting the bill through the senate, Assembly Speaker Heastie, Assemblymember Kelles, and Assemblymember Lupardo for getting it through the Assembly, and all the Senators and Assemblymembers who voted for this critical legislation. I urge Governor Hochul to sign the bill to ensure New Yorkers and our environment are protected.”
 

Julia Walsh, Director of Frack Action, said, “Organizations across the state are calling on Governor Hochul to swiftly sign into law the bill to ban carbon dioxide drilling and fracking. This is vital to protecting our drinking water, air, public health, and climate. The legislature wisely moved quickly to pass this bill to stop the gas industry’s cynical ploy to get around our state’s fracking ban, and now it’s up to Governor Hochul to sign it.”

“CO2 Fracking (the proposal to use supercritical carbon dioxide – CO2 pressurized to enter a fluid state at certain temperatures) to extract gas in New York threatens the safety of lands and waters previously protected from similar subsurface hazards by both regulatory and legislative bans,” said Kathy Nolan, a physician and research director for Catskill Mountainkeeper. “This new legislation protects drinking water resources and prevents a false reliance on untested technologies as we work diligently to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The New York Assembly and Senate have seen the wisdom of adopting a far simpler and superior approach: now Governor Hochul must join them and sign this ban, keeping difficult to reach shale gas deposits sequestered safely underground.”

Biologist Sandra Steingraber, PhD, Concerned Health Professionals of New York, said, “The dispatch by which the New York Assembly and Senate outlawed the untested practice of CO2 fracking reflects the supreme idiocy of Southern Tier Solution’s plans for our state. Swapping in pressurized CO2 for water doesn’t make fracking any less dangerous. Indeed, liquified CO2 is a terrible poison that asphyxiates people and turns groundwater into acid. Our legislature has affirmed that there is zero reason to run this bad chemistry experiment in our Southern Tier counties. All eyes now turn to Governor Hochul for her signature.

Roger Downs, Conservation Director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter said, “The Sierra Club applauds the NYS Legislature for understanding that this latest gas extraction loophole will most certainly drain limited DEC resources and divert us from our nation leading climate goals unless we close it. It is now time for Governor Hochul to follow suit and protect New Yorkers from this ill-conceived plan that was not anticipated with the original fracking ban, but shares so many of the same disastrous environmental impacts.”

“We know fracking wreaks havoc on our health and environment. That’s why, a decade ago, New York led the nation in banning high-volume hydraulic fracking. Now, to circumvent the law, the fossil fuel industry wants to use carbon dioxide to extract natural gas,” said Rich Schrader, Director, New York Government Affairs at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “Carbon dioxide fracking would pose the same threats to our climate, water, and health as hydraulic fracking.”

Ravo Root, a community organizer for Citizen Action of New York who is based in Binghamton, said, “Those of us who live in the Southern Tier say no thanks to CO2 fracking. We know what CO2 fracking means for our communities:damage to our precious land and water and health problems for local residents – all to provide a quick buck for an out of state company. We thank Assemblymember Kelles and Senator Webb for their tireless efforts to get this bill passed, and urge the Governor to sign this common sense climate measure into law.”

“We are grateful to the Senate and Assembly for passing this key legislation, and for the leadership of Senator Webb and Assemblymember Kelles,” said Sophie Patka, Climate & Legislative Associate with Environmental Advocates NY. “The ball is now in the Governor’s court to quickly sign this into law and ban CO2 Fracking once and for all.”

Background:

The campaign for a ban on drilling and fracking using CO2 emerged and has grown rapidly in response to news that the fossil fuel industry is pushing an experimental, dangerous new method of shale gas extraction. Since the fall of 2023, the gas industry (via a company called “Southern Tier CO2 to Clean Energy Solutions”) has been asking thousands of Southern Tier landowners to lease their land for gas extraction by injecting carbon dioxide into the Marcellus Shale formation. The Marcellus and Utica Shale formations underlie much of the state, and the industry may target the Southern Tier first as a starting point for more areas in the state. Currently, the state’s law banning fracking prohibits the use of high volumes of water to extract the gas. The industry aims to get around the state’s fracking ban by using CO2, but that technique poses many of the same threats to our water, health, and climate. 

Most of the same impacts associated with the entire drilling and fracking process apply whether water or CO2 is used, and scientific research overwhelmingly finds risks and harms associated with these approaches. After studying the health and environmental impacts for years, in 2014 New York State concluded that drilling and fracking pose significant risks to people’s health, air quality, drinking water, and the environment. Since then, hundreds more peer-reviewed studies further confirm and extend those findings. 

The use of CO2 to try to get around the state’s fracking ban does not avoid the dangers and harms associated with the process. For example, as countless scientific studies about drilling and fracking demonstrate, induced fractures are not controllable and could cause the CO2 in addition to heavy metals and naturally occurring radioactivity in the shale to migrate, threatening to contaminate our drinking water. Additionally, high pressure CO2 is itself very dangerous, and ruptured pipelines can result in asphyxiation and convulsions. This was tragically illustrated in Satartia, Mississippi in 2020 when a CO2 pipeline exploded, leading to mass CO2 poisoning that left 45 people hospitalized. Additionally, high pressure CO2 injection underground poses significant risk of earthquakes, corrosion of well casings, and acidification of groundwater.

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