Gov. Andrew Cuomo has included legislation in his budget proposal to permanently ban “high-volume” hydraulic fracturing in New York, five years after state regulators took action to stop unconventional natural gas development.
The measure, if enacted, would restrict the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) from approving permits authorizing an applicant to “drill, deepen, plug back or convert wells that use high-volume fracturing as a means to complete or recomplete a well,” the administration said.
The bill would apply to operations that use at least 300,000 gallons of water. Today’s unconventional wells require roughly one million gallons of water or far more to complete depending on a variety of factors.
After nearly seven years of regulatory review that began with an executive directive issued before Cuomo’s tenure, the DEC in 2015 took regulatory action and banned fracturing. New York became the first state with significant gas resources to not allow the well stimulation technique. However, no legislation was introduced to codify the measure.
The ban quelled the hopes of the state’s smaller producers, which for years have struggled with declining output from conventional reservoirs. Significant resources were also swept off the table for larger independents with holdings in New York. Across the state line, unconventional development in the Marcellus, Utica and Upper Devonian shales has transformed Pennsylvania into the nation’s second largest gas producer.
The DEC said in a 2015 conclusion banning fracturing that “there are no feasible or prudent alternatives that would adequately avoid or minimize adverse environmental impacts and that address the scientific uncertainties and risks to public health from this activity.”
Cuomo’s legislation is included in his $178 billion executive budget proposal for fiscal 2021. The governor also called for banning single-use styrofoam and expanding the use of electronic bikes and scooters in the state. Those proposals would build on a measure implemented last year that banned plastic bags.
Cuomo, a Democrat, also took the same occasion last year during his state of the state address to unveil plans for a “Green New Deal” for New York. The state legislature later passed an aggressive climate protection bill solidifying its stance against fossil fuels and codifying some of Cuomo’s ambitions. New York has also blocked several natural gas infrastructure projects in recent years.
Cuomo’s bid to permanently ban fracturing is expected to have the support of the state legislature, which is controlled by Democrats. Last month, marking the fifth anniversary of the DEC’s regulatory action, Democratic State Sen. Jen Metzger introduced a similar bill.