ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A coalition of groups dedicated to continuing New York's five-year-old ban on hydraulic fracturing demanded that the state withdraw its proposed regulations for new liquefied natural gas facilities, saying they're too broad and fail to consider all the risks. Members of New Yorkers Against Fracking were in Albany for a public hearing on the regulations, which would end a 40-year moratorium on new storage and fueling facilities for liquefied natural gas. The state enacted the ban after an explosion killed 40 workers at a Staten Island storage plant in 1973. Officials later lifted the ban but said no new facilities would be allowed until regulations were issued.
Liquefied natural gas is a refined form of natural gas, large deposits of which lie under New York and other states in deep rock formations. Though fracking has produced an abundance of natural gas in other states, it has raised concerns about potential contamination of groundwater supplies. Governor Andrew Cuomo will decide whether to allow fracking in New York but has said he's waiting for a report from his health commissioner on potential health impacts. Liquefied natural gas is increasingly being adopted as a cheaper, less dirty alternative to diesel fuel for long-haul trucking fleets. At least one fuel company has plans to add it to some of its New York truck stops when the regulations are in place.
That means the regulations are needed regardless of whether New York's ban on hydraulic fracturing is lifted or the gas comes from other states, Department of Environmental Conservation officials emphasized at the hearing. Opponents view the regulations as part of an overall strategy to build infrastructure to eventually support shale gas development using fracking. While state officials say the regulations are aimed at fueling stations, opponents say the proposal contains no limits on the size of facilities and would allow onsite conversion at gas well sites to increase ease of transportation, as well as terminals for importing and exporting at marine ports outside New York City.
"The projection is that there would be about 21 facilities built over the next five years, all for transportation," said DEC official Andrew English. He said the regulations don't limit the size of facilities because that would require a revision later to accommodate future demands. A proposal that died in the Legislature last spring would have allowed the fueling facilities for the trucking industry, limiting the storage capacity to 40,000 gallons. DEC's proposal would allow storage and conversion sites with capacities upward of 26 million gallons, said Russ Haven of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
"DEC and Governor Cuomo are not being honest with New Yorkers," said John Armstrong of New Yorkers Against Fracking. "They talk only about these small fueling stations, when in fact these regulations open the door for the elephant to come in." Any plans for import or export terminals would require Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval, DEC officials said at the hearing. The Business Council of New York State testified in support of the regulations, saying it has long supported liquefied natural gas as a cleaner alternative to other energy sources.
"By adopting regulations governing LNG, New York with join the 49 other states that have already adopted substantially similar regulation," said the council's Darren Suarez. Representatives of several trucking organizations also urged officials to move forward with the regulations. "In the trucking industry, LNG is an extremely attractive alternative to other fuels," said Karin White of the New York State Motor Truck Association. "It is environmentally friendly, safer and significantly less costly for many carriers."
DEC is taking public comments on its proposed natural gas regulations until December 4.