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New York Bans Drilling In Allegany State Park

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Natural gas and oil drillers— including those who want to conduct hydraulic fracturing—are effectively banned from energy extraction and exploration drilling at the 65,000-acre Allegany State Park in New York State; this, following Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s signing of two pieces of legislation last week.

According to a report from The Buffalo News, the new laws should crush U.S. Energy Development Corp. of Getzville’s plans to sink five test wells at the park, a plan announced two years ago. The driller claims it had subsurface mineral rights underneath a 2,800-acre area of the park known as the Red House section.

Allegany State Park differs from other parks in New York because the private ownership of subsurface oil and gas rights were kept nearly 100 years ago when the state acquired the park. But, because the first of the two new bills states that oil and gas claims not actively used in the past two decades are rendered “extinguished,” the rights revert back to the state, reported The Buffalo News.

The second bill signed by the governor gives New York state parks departments expanded authority over efforts to explore or drill in the Allegany State Park and, if these activities are undertaken, they must “be undertaken with the strictest possible oversight,” according to The Buffalo News.

The new legislation comes just as New Yok is preparing to open most of its Marcellus shale region to fracking. The Marcellus shale is a formation rich in natural gas. To access this gas from the shale, drillers hydraulically fracture, or frack. Fracking is a drilling technique in which water, sand, and a cocktail of chemicals is injected deep underground to break up the gas-bearing rock, explained NewsInferno.

Some environmental experts argue that the process of hydraulic fracturing enables methane to move into water wells, contaminating drinking water and the environment.

The state’s moratorium on natural gas drilling by high-volume, horizontal fracking expired on July 1. Also on July 1, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a report that recommended the process be permitted on most of New York State’s private lands.. The only exception is the environmentally sensitive watersheds that supply New York City and Syracuse with drinking water.

Most recently, the DEC issued a revised draft of proposed fracking regulations that says that, if adopted, 85% of New York’s Marcellus Shale will become accessible to natural gas extraction by hydraulic fracturing, said NewsInferno.

The DEC and Governor Cuomo have faced much disapproval over proposals to bring the environmentally controversial process to New York State.

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