The American Petroleum Institute (API) Wednesday called on New York regulators to remove all prohibitions against drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation in the southern part of the state.

"We...request that you eliminate all prohibitions, and review and fully justify any expanded setbacks balanced against economic impact," said Jon Shore, API's manager of external mobilization, during a hearing of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation in Dansville, NY.

"While the potential environmental impacts of natural gas drilling in New York are speculative at best, we know for sure that these prohibitions and setbacks will make certain areas uneconomic, result in greater surface footprint because additional wells will need to be drilled for the same spacing unit, result in less gas being produced because of stranded acreage, and significantly reduce or eliminate royalties to landowners," he testified.

Shore contends that New York companies have a good record of drilling in primary aquifers such as the Jamestown Aquifer where hundreds, if not thousands, of wells have been drilled and produced without any significant environmental impacts.

The Dansville hearing, which was attended by about 400 protesters, was the first of four hearings to be held on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to allow permitting of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling. The state has blocked permitting since 2008. Opponents fear that fracking will pollute their drinking water and affect the air quality.

Meanwhile in Washington, DC, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was criticized by Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee for the department's decision to soon issue regulations governing fracking on public lands (see Shale Daily, Nov. 4).