By Jennifer Glickel and Heather Grossmann
MUNICIPAL DISTRICT — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined the fight against fracking on Monday, saying a proposal to drill for natural gas upstate would put the health of New Yorkers at risk.
The debate over fracking — a drilling process in which a mixture of water and chemicals is blown into the ground to release natural gas — has been raging in the state for the past several months.
Opponents of the method fear that because the drilling would occur in the Marcellus Shale, an upstate region that supplies the city with its drinking water, some of the cancer-causing chemicals used in the process would mix with the city's water supply.
Dozens of politicians and activists gathered outside City Hall on Monday to urge the state to step back from the Department of Environmental Conservation's "Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement" (SGEIS), otherwise known as the state's proposal to drill upstate.
"What we do have is a water supply today that is one of the best out there," Quinn said to the crowd. "What we need to have is the governor to pull back the draft EIS [Environmental Impact Statement], stop the process, start over."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said last week that the SGEIS needed to be “significantly expanded” before any movement on the issue could occur. The mayor’s office came to a similar conclusion in its own study [PDF].
Both reports said that New York City would likely have to pay upwards of $10 billion for a water filtration plant if the drilling compromised the city’s water supply.
“Before we make a lasting mistake, we must have an outright ban in NYC's watershed,” Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said in e-mailed comments.
“It's time that Governor Paterson and the DEC align themselves with the scores of scientists, environmentalists and concerned citizens who all believe that natural gas drilling in the New York City watershed would be a catastrophic mistake."
Gov. Paterson has reportedly expressed his approval of upstate drilling in the past, saying that it would be an economic benefit to the state.
In response to current fracking concerns, the governor's office said, "Governor Paterson is fully committed to protecting New York's environment and its drinking water, and the state continues to have some of the strictest environmental regulations in the nation.
"More than 10,000 comments were filed with the DEC from stakeholders on both sides of this issue, and the DEC should have the opportunity to review those comments and issue a final GEIS."