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Drillers charge "fracking hysteria" helps enviros raise cash
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Hydrofracking debate has galvanized the environmental movement.
Marie Cusick/WMHT

Why is there such a big fuss over fracking?

According to Karen Moreau, who heads the New York State Petroleum Council, environmentalists have stirred up the controversy as a fundraising tool.

“It’s part of a movement to enrich the environmental groups,” she says, “Because through hysteria, and creating an environment of fear, it certainly does cause people to support the mission of some of these groups.”

Environmentalists, obviously, disagree with that assertion.

“That’s preposterous,” says Katherine Nadeau, of the Environmental Advocates for New York, “[Our members] are incredibly concerned about the harmful effects of fracking that have happened all over the country.”

Nadeau argues that her organization has attracted more members and more money in recent years, because fracking is such a bad idea.

“[The drilling industry] is just trying to paint us as someone who stands to gain,” she says, “At the end of the day, it’s these multi-billion dollar corporations that have something to gain. Most New Yorkers have something to lose.”

“Politically sensitive”

Moreau, and dozens of other members of the oil and gas industry were in Albany yesterday for a public forum hosted by the American Petroleum Institute, a trade organization representing more than 400 oil and gas producers.

The educational workshop featured detailed presentations about how fracking works.

Many of the attendees included geologists, engineers, and landowners from the Southern Tier and Central New York - places where fracking would likely occur, if New York State lifts its temporary moratorium.

Moreau says oil and gas producers are concerned about some fracking bans by local municipalities, which have recently been upheld in court.

“The nature of gas development and exploration is one that transcends municipal lines,” she says.

Moreau argues that current regulations proposed by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), including bans on fracking Syracuse and New York City watersheds, are motivated by politics, and would stifle business.

“They carved out certain parts of the state, where I think that they thought, for a variety of reasons, it would be certainly politically sensitive,” she says.

Environmental groups have argued that those regulations don’t go far enough, and many would like to see a permanent ban on fracking.

The DEC’s current position is that fracking can be done safely in New York, as long as it’s properly regulated. The agency is expected to complete its environmental review sometime later this year.