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Panel: Hydrofracking proposal flawed

ALBANY -- Two environmental groups on a state panel that will study proposed state rules to allow natural gas hydrofracking criticized the proposal as flawed.

Criticism came this week from both Environmental Advocates of New York and the Natural Resources Defense Council, which sit on a 12-member panel created by the Department of Environmental Conservation this month to review the nearly 1,100-page draft rule book for the gas drilling released this month.

"If Gov. Andrew Cuomo thinks fracking can be done safely, he needs to put some regulatory muscle behind his words before he allows any drilling," said Katherine Nadeau, an analyst with Environmental Advocates of New York.

Both EANY and NRDC are on the 12-member High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel, which must craft recommendations for DEC and other agencies to control the controversial drilling practice.

The panel has yet to meet. A 60-day public comment on the proposed rules is expected to begin sometime next month, Hydrofracking involves injection of a high-pressure mix of chemicals, water and sand into deep underground wells to break rock that contains trapped bubbles of natural gas. Opponents fear the drilling could pollute water and air, while the industry says the practice is safe.

Drilling companies are eyeing the gas-rich Marcellus Shale, a rock formation that extends from the western Catskills and through much of the Southern Tier.

Among issues identified by the two environmental groups and others, including Riverkeeper, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Earthworks and Earthjustice, were: The state would not ban any hydrofracking chemical, even those known to be toxic and carcinogenic. The state would require drilling companies to disclose such chemicals, a requirement not in place in other states where drilling is already allowed.

Drilling waste and water brought back up a well to the surface would not be classified as hazardous waste, which would allow laxer standards for treatment and transportation. In some cases, such water is mildly radioactive.

Sewage plants could be allowed to treat such waste, even though such plants are not designed for the task.

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