Natural gas fracking isn’t dead yet in the state of New York.
Although New York has already banned fracking for nearly a decade, state lawmakers want to amend that ban to include a new kind of fracking that extracts natural gas by using carbon dioxide instead of water.
The legislative effort comes as Texas-based energy company Southern Tier Solutions is offering upstate New York residents in certain counties $10 “bonuses” for leases to frack on their land. The company’s website says that the offers are “not intended to be insulting” and that Southern Tier Solutions needs to lease at least 100,000 acres to be economically successful. It’s currently sending thousands of offers throughout New York’s Southern Tier region, including in Broome, Chemung and Tioga counties.
The company says fracking with carbon dioxide has “overwhelming environmental benefits.” But advocates like actor and environmentalist Mark Ruffalo aren’t buying it.
“We’re looking at a massive climate catastrophe,” Ruffalo said at a press conference on Friday. “This is a fight we’re willing to have. It’s ridiculous that the gas industry is now trying to get around our fracking ban by using an experimental form of extracting gas out of shale with carbon dioxide. That sounds like a crazy experiment.”
The state Department of Environmental Conservation said it had not been contacted by Southern Tier Solutions, indicating the fracking plan was in its very early stages. According to the company’s website, it plans to survey drilling sites and submit permit applications to the DEC this spring, with the aim of beginning work as early as this summer.
Southern Tier Solutions, which lists a P.O. box but no physical office in New York and no phone number, did not return requests for comment.
The energy company plans to use carbon dioxide captured from the atmosphere to fracture shale layers under the leased land and release methane for natural gas production, even as the state moves away from fossil fuels. While studies have shown this method of fracking is greener and more effective than traditional methods, it still carries risks including earthquakes, carbon dioxide leaks and groundwater contamination.
State Assemblymember Anna Kelles, who represents Tompkins County and parts of Cortland County, said amending the legislation was not a heavy lift.
“With this bill, three words are being added to the current law, basically adding the words for ‘carbon dioxide,’” she said.