If you think hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - sounds like a form of water torture, you're close. It means blasting underground rock with water and chemicals to unleash its natural gas. It has potential for cheaper, cleaner energy, but also for polluting drinking water. Albany should slow it down.
Companies are willing to offer upstate property owners a lot of money for the right to drill under their land, and given the area's economic hardships, the owners are understandably tempted to take the money and not worry about the consequences. That's a large reason why some Albany legislators seem so reluctant to put the brakes on the drive for vastly expanded fracking.
The New York City Council, fearful that fracking could taint city reservoirs, supports a bill by Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) imposing a moratorium on new permits until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finishes a national study of fracking's environmental impacts, likely to take two years.
That makes more sense than a simple one-year delay, the most the Senate wants. We hope Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee, can persuade the senators to do better than that.
Two final words: 1) "Gasland," a documentary on fracking that showed flaming water faucets and other horrors, is raising awareness and concerns about the process. 2) BP. If that calamity taught us anything, it's this: Before you drill, make sure you know what the worst-case scenario really is, and how to cope with it. On fracking, we just don't know yet. hN