Fracking may be permitted in New York state, despite the ban introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration last month, provided that gelled propane is substituted for water in the well-stimulation procedure.
The new technology – tested on wells on a hay and corn farm in Tioga County in the Southern Tier – uses liquefied petroleum gas and sand instead of water to split the rock. The propane is recaptured as a gas when it rises back to the surface.
The last-month’s fracking ban hinged on perceived risks to water supply, examining the amount of water that would be required from local supplies as well as the vast number of trucks needed to transport it. However, if the wells get fracked without the use of water, they may be exempt from the ban.
“The ban that was put in place in New York does not include this type of well stimulation,” Karen Moreau, executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council told Capital New York. “Fracking is not banned in New York. What’s banned in New York is high-volume hydraulic fracturing.”
The possible exemption raised concerns among the anti-fracking groups which supported the ban. On Monday, a coalition of environmental groups – including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice and Frack Action – sent a letter to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, demanding that the loophole be closed.
“LPG fracturing returns polluting products to the surface that must be properly handled and disposed, in this case, flammable gases that would have to be collected in pressurized tanks or flared—a step generating air emissions and leaks that can harm public health and safety,” they wrote.
New York has one of the nation’s largest untapped reserves of natural gas and is the only state with a major shale gas formation to ban fracking.
Following the introduction of the ban, the pro-fracking lobby has up to 27th October to challenge the decision on legal grounds.
“I see a number of legal issues that I think are ripe for challenge,” said Tom West, an Albany-based oil-and-gas attorney who unsuccessfully challenged a local ban in the town of Dryden, Tompkins County. “I don’t know if there’s any judges in this state who aren’t afraid of Andrew Cuomo who would call it the way it should be called.”
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