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Gov-Elect Cuomo Must Close Loophole, Enact Long-Term Protections

(Albany, NY) — Governor David Paterson today helped protect the health of New Yorkers and their drinking water by issuing an Executive Order that calls for a temporary timeout on high volume hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling for natural gas. In doing so he signaled his understanding that high volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, threatens both public health and the environment.

The Executive Order places a timeout on horizontal wells for fracking for natural gas through July 1, 2011. The Executive Order also creates a loophole that oil and gas corporations can exploit according to environmental, good government, community and public health organizations.

The state legislature overwhelmingly passed stronger bipartisan legislation earlier this year that outlined a moratorium on both horizontal and vertical wells through that date. Like horizontal wells, vertical wells have been linked to drinking water contamination and other health and environmental dangers across the country. Additionally, gas companies have already threatened to drill vertically into the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations during the moratorium and then convert those wells into horizontal wells as soon as the moratorium sunsets.

A statement follows from Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, EARTHWORKS Oil & Gas Accountability Project, Earthjustice, Environmental Advocates of New York, Frack Action, Hudson Riverkeeper, Natural Resources Defense Council, Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation, and Sierra Club-Atlantic Chapter:

Governor Paterson has signaled that he understands fracking is a dangerous process that poses serious health and environmental threats. The moratorium makes New York the first state to insist on protecting the health and safety of its citizens and drinking water, before allowing drilling to proceed. Unfortunately, Governor Paterson issued this order while simultaneously vetoing a stronger bill passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the New York State Senate and Assembly.

Unlike the moratorium bill, the Executive Order does not protect against the dangers of all fracking wells, but allows so-called vertical wells — exactly the kind of wells that were responsible for ruining nine square miles of aquifer and poisoning the drinking water of more than a dozen families in Dimock, Pennsylvania, along with many other pollution incidents in Pennsylvania — to move forward. This loophole still leaves New Yorkers at risk and gas corporations are already threatening to exploit it.

When the incoming governor replaces Paterson this January, he will have the opportunity to fix the loophole and set New York on a long-term protective course for our health, our communities, and our environment. Governor- elect Cuomo has already said 'existing watersheds are sacrosanct' and he 'would not support any drilling that would threaten the State's major sources of drinking water.' He has said 'any drilling in the Marcellus Shale must be environmentally sensitive and safe.' We're looking to him to make good on his word.

New York has the opportunity to show the nation how to change the narrative on fracking — choosing safe and healthy drinking water over poisoned wells, destroyed property values and devastated communities. We thank the State Legislature, particularly Assemblyman Robert Sweeney and Senator Antoine Thompson, for acting earlier this year to protect New York from fracking. Without their efforts, it's unlikely that Governor Paterson would have issued this Executive Order. We urge Governor-elect Cuomo to continue the Executive Order under his administration and lead the way to protecting New York from the dangers of natural gas drilling.


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