Changes to New York Water Laws Fail to Address Fracking

Bill Will Serve the Needs of Gas Industry, Not Farmers or Homeowners

WATKINS GLEN, NY - Significant changes to New York's water laws now under consideration in the state legislature fail to address the vast amounts of water used and contaminated in high-volume hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method for gas drilling, according to the Coalition to Protect New York.

"Fracking requires huge quantities of water, and it's extracted from lakes, streams and other sources," said Jack Ossont, spokesman for CPNY. "But the water rights bill that's being rushed through the Legislature fails to anticipate the many problems that will occur if the gas industry succeeds in bringing this drilling method to New York."

CPNY is calling on members of the Legislature to hold hearings on the bill and consider all the potential impacts of its passage. "If we don't," said Kate Bartholomew, co-cordinator of the Finger Lakes Progressives, a Schuyler County based group, "we'll end up with a bill that serves the gas industry's needs for water instead of the needs of farmers and homeowners, and could potentially destroy our supply of clean, fresh water."

Bartholomew said that since the proposed bill only requires permits for users of more than 100,000 gallons of water per day, small haulers servicing the hydrofracking gas industry could use this as a loophole for sucking up 6-8,000 gallon truck loads from area streams and lakes without a permit.

Ossont questioned why the bill, which is coming up in State Assembly Code Committee meetings Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., apparently has the support of many environmental groups. He said the bill raises too many questions that have not been addressed, including:

 Will the permitting authority contained in the proposed legislation limit the authority currently held by the Department of Environmental Conservation to regulate water withdrawals in the state?

 Will the permits issued pursuant to the proposed legislation give water rights to permit holders that will override the statutory and common law water rights held by other users?
In other words, in the event of conflicts over rights to water usage, will permit holders have priority water rights over other users?

 Will the proposed legislation override the rights of water users to seek judicial enforcement of their water rights, or will water users be limited to challenging the issuance of permits and precluded from making challenges once a permit is issued?

CPNY and others are calling on its members to contact their legislators today and urge them to request hearings on these bills.

"If the changes to our water laws are so important, then it's important that the legislature hold public hearings and allow comments before landowners' common law rights are taken away," said Helen Slottje, an attorney with Community Environmental Defense Council, Inc.