New York lawmakers expand fracking ban to include liquid carbon dioxide

ALBANY, N.Y. — Lawmakers in New York on Wednesday passed a bill that would expand the state’s existing fracking ban by banning natural gas drillers from using an extraction method that involves injecting massive amounts of liquid carbon dioxide into the ground.

The Senate passed the legislation, with some opposition from Republican lawmakers. It now goes to Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is in the middle of state budget negotiations. The state Assembly passed the bill on March 12.

New York already banned hydraulic fracturing, which uses a water-based solution to extract natural gas. But some lawmakers were quick to draft the new legislation after a Texas company wanted to lease land in New York for drilling last fall. They said the company, Southern Tier Solutions, is trying to exploit a loophole in existing law by drilling with carbon dioxide instead of water.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ​​told reporters at a news conference Wednesday that while she has not yet discussed the legislation with the governor, she is hopeful it will become law.

“There is concern that if we don’t close this loophole sooner rather than later, it will essentially open the proverbial gateway for further investigation, which will also be problematic,” said Democratic state Sen. Lea Webb. the voice. Among the thousands solicited by the company were many of Webb’s constituents in the Southern Tier, a region that runs along the Pennsylvania border.

The region has been eyed by energy companies because of its wealth of natural gas, which is locked underground in large rock formations.

Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping large quantities of water, sand and chemicals thousands of feet underground, under pressure intense enough to fracture rock layers containing oil or natural gas deposits so that the fossil fuel can be extracted. Fracking, which is banned in some states including Vermont and Maryland, can cause earthquakes and raise concerns about groundwater contamination.

Sen. Thomas O’Mara, a Republican who voted against the bill, said during floor deliberations that the move to expand the ban on fracking is premature.

“This utopian approach is a train wreck coming down the tracks,” he said.

Southern Tier Solutions says on its website that it wants to use carbon from power plants to extract natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica Shales, massive rock formations that stretch for hundreds of miles.

Company officials and its president, Bryce P. Phillips, did not respond to email and phone requests from The Associated Press. But in previous interviews, Phillips has argued that replacing water with liquid carbon dioxide could be more environmentally friendly.

Proponents of the bill and some lawmakers raised concerns that pipelines carrying carbon dioxide for extraction could rupture, leading to poor air quality and major health risks.

They pointed to a 2020 incident in the small town of Satartia, Mississippi, where a compressed carbon dioxide pipeline ruptured, sending more than 40 people to the hospital for treatment and forcing more than 300 to evacuate.

Sandra Steingraber, a retired biologist and anti-fracking activist, applauded the bill’s passage. She argues that any form of drilling – regardless of the type of material used – is bad for the environment.

“They resolved this very quickly because they realized how damaging it was,” she said of lawmakers’ response. “It’s all risk and no reward for New York State pursuing this plan.”


Maysoon Khan is a staff member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.