Marcellus Shale gas mining discussed at forum

Panel listens to opinions on both side

NEW PALTZ – Should natural gas be mined from the Marcellus Shale formation, all safeguards against groundwater contamination must be in place, Congressman Maurice Hinchey told a forum in New Paltz Monday evening.

A panel was organized in part by the SUNY New Paltz Environmental Task Force for the purpose of allowing both pro and con opinions to express their arguments regarding gas drilling in the region.

According to Hinchey, a member of the Natural Resources Committee, what’s most important is that the proper standards and regulations are in place to prevent contamination of any population’s drinking water and to ensure that the process of drilling for natural gas will not spawn health problems in the future.

“This kind of drilling really can’t take place within the confines of New York City’s unfiltered drinking water supply,” said James Gennaro of the New York City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee.

“It’s not the appropriate kind of activity that could ever take place safely within an unfiltered water supply.”

Vice President of Chesapeake Energy Scott Rotruck clearly stated that his company would never be drilling in areas affecting the watershed. However, he did speak very highly of the potential for economic benefit that extracting natural gas would bring to the state.

“It can be a tremendous wealth builder for New York,” he said. “New York, right now, produces about five percent of its own natural gas usage. If it could produce more of its own natural gas that would be an economic benefit not only for the drilling and other associated activities but it could lower the cost of energy usage in New York.”

During public comment, questions were raised as to what sort of impact permitting gas drilling in state park areas would have on the preservation of those parks and the tourism they generate.

According to Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Program Director Wes Gillingham, allowing this type of drilling on park land would, in the long term, affect visitors to the area.

“People don’t want to come and hunt and fish next to 24/7 drilling activity.”

State Department of Environmental Conservation Executive Deputy Commissioner Stuart Gruskin assured the audience that, “should this happen in New York State, it is going to happen in an environmentally responsible way.”