The New York Independent Oil and Gas Association (IOGA) is seeking petition signatures from pro-gas drilling New Yorkers and asking them to write elected officials in support of the "tremendous economic development opportunity" offered by natural gas exploration and production in the state.

"The most significant issue facing IOGA of NY is the prospect of expanded natural gas exploration in the Marcellus Shale -- one the largest natural gas fields in North America," the association says on its website. "The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is about to finalize an environmental impact statement, which will set the stage for natural gas companies to apply for drilling permits.

"...[T]he public continues to be misinformed repeatedly by extremist groups whose only agenda is to eliminate New York's natural gas industry. Enough is enough! We cannot stand idly by and wait for the ax to fall. It's high time New York's lawmakers heard the truth -- that natural gas can be produced safely, while protecting the environment."

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) at the end of September released proposed rules for companies that want to drill in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale (see NGI, Oct. 5). The DEC's Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) addresses the range of potential impacts of shale gas development using horizontal drilling and high-volume hydrofracing and outlines safety and mitigation measures that operators would have to follow to obtain permits. The SGEIS, available on the DEC website, expands on a Generic Environmental Impact Statement, adopted in 1992. The comment period on the proposal ends Dec. 31.

Environmental groups such as the National Resources Defense Council, Common Cause, Earthjustice, Earthworks and the New York State Public Interest Research Group have called the proposed rules inadequate and have called for their withdrawal. IOGA supports the latest version of the proposed rules.

New York state Sen. James Seward, a Republican, recently introduced legislation (SB 6269) that would allow the DEC to require holders of gas well drilling permits to post a bond with the state comptroller as insurance that money would be available to defray the cost of repairing damaged water supplies.

The IOGA petition had more than 2,100 signatures as of last Friday, according to the petition website. IOGA's draft letter to elected officials, which supporters may sign and send from a linked website, reads in part:

"Drilling and hydraulic fracturing are two distinct processes. The impacts of hydraulic fracturing -- a process of releasing trapped natural gas by pumping a mixture of primary water and sand into shale deposits deep underground -- has been scrutinized by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and is being examined even further in DEC's draft [SGEIS].

"...And regardless of what the environmental extremist groups allege, not a single documented case of drinking water contamination has ever been tied to hydraulic fracturing in New York."

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