Community group presenters warn of poor DEC regulations and issues bigger than hydrofracking, during gas forum

NORWICH – Appearing before a crowd of around 80 at the United Church of Christ, two experts – an environmental scientist and a former oil company executive – spoke about the hazards associated with natural gas drilling on Nov. 18.

The Community Action Forum for Renewable Energy invited Lou Allstadt, a retired executive vice-president of Mobil Oil Corp. and Dr. Ron Bishop, a professor in the Department of Chemistry for the State University of New York at Oneonta, to make presentations.

Both said state regulations are lacking in keeping up with the industry’s changing methods and suggested the manpower shortages faced by the Department of Environmental Conservation make it difficult for the agency to even enforce current safe practices.

“Compared to other states I’ve worked with, and assuming the draft currently being reviewed by the state for the new regulations survives in its entirety, then I’d rank New York somewhere at the bottom of the list,” said Allstadt.

Both men said many of New York’s current regulations were updated in the early to mid 1990s and don’t account for the gas industry’s latest methods, such as hydro-fracking, the method of breaking open rock formations with the use of intense pressure and industrial chemicals to free trapped natural gas.

Bishop said the process was implemented commercially beginning around 2000 and became accepted industry wide around 2005.

“This is not how they’ve drilled for natural gas in the past so all those people making those arguments about how we’re prepared and it’s all gone OK in the past, are not exactly accurate,” he said.

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