By Krisy Gashler
June 2, 2010
ITHACA -- Congressman Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, sent a letter Wednesday urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to push for a vote on Hinchey's FRAC Act, which would require natural gas drilling companies to disclose the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing, and to comply with the regulations in the Safe Drinking Water Act.
At a Wednesday afternoon press conference at Ithaca's Stewart Park, Hinchey warned that environmental catastrophe could await central New York if gas drilling goes forward without tighter regulations, citing the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
"Given the recent BP oil spill, it should be obvious to everyone that we cannot trust industry assurances about safety and risks," Hinchey said. "The situation that we're seeing in the Gulf of Mexico now is a very classic example of the way in which drilling operations have to be done very carefully, very honestly."
The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009, introduced by Hinchey and two others is "stuck" in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Hinchey said. He urged Pelosi to get the bill out of committee and onto the House floor for a vote.
The legislation is "designed to close legal loopholes that have allowed drilling to operate with almost no federal safeguards in place," Hinchey wrote to Pelosi.
Natural gas drilling regulations are overseen at the state level. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is still reviewing and responding to comments on its revised drilling regulations.
Hinchey took partial credit for the delay in the DEC's release of those regulations -- and thus the delay in drilling in the Marcellus Shale -- because of a letter he sent to Gov. David Paterson roughly a year ago, highlighting the fact that natural gas companies are not required to comply with the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act.
Hinchey has also pushed for a new, independent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study on the safety of hydraulic fracturing. Hinchey does not believe the FRAC Act should wait until that EPA study is completed, he stressed.