As the DEC continues to grapple with plans to regulate hydrofracking, Senate Democrats are hearing concerns on their own from those closest to the issue. Our Lori Chung reports.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- "This is a serious problem that, as already mentioned, is the biggest environmental problem that New York has faced in over a century," one person said.
Concerns about the impacts of hydrofracking dominated a public forum organized by the Senate Democratic Conference.
"We desperately need a comprehensive health impact study," one person said.
Helmed by Senator Tony Avella, who sits on the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, the forum comes after a bill package that democratic sponsors say would better inform New Yorkers about fracking risks, failed to pass. Senate Minority Leader John Sampson says majority republicans rejected a request for a public hearing, but the panel here gives a voice to those who would be most affected by drilling in the Marcellus shale.
"Our forum is about understanding this information, getting this information and being able to make a decision as to the cost benefit analysis of doing hydrofracking," Sampson said.
The state DEC is currently reviewing public comments submitted on its proposed guidelines for drilling activity that would involve injected water, sand and chemicals into shale rock to extract gas, a process giving pause to environmentalists throughout the state.
"There’s a huge collection of groundwater, of aquifer water in the Capital District and because it's so low a valley, it will also collect the lion share of fracking contaminants," Schoharie resident Louise Johnson said.
Worries about groundwater contamination and declining property values aside, industry leaders have maintained that gas drilling is a safe process and a cleaner alternative to other forms of fuel. But speakers gathered here are hoping these forums will ultimately shape new policy that can help eliminate what they say is a great environmental threat.