Bill would ban
oil, gas drilling under Great Lakes
Damita Chambers, Associated Press, 6/12/2002 23:47
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) New contracts for oil or
natural gas drilling under Lakes Ontario and Erie would
be banned under legislation proposed in the state Assembly.
legislation would prohibit agreements reached beginning
Jan. 1, 2003, for new pipelines and projects for directional
drilling, a process of drilling into lake bottoms from
onshore wells. The cutoff date falls within a two-year
federal ban on oil drilling in the Great Lakes that ends
Great Lakes, both recreationally (and) economically, are
absolutely critical to the region. Anything that threatens
that raises a red flag with me,'' said Assemblyman Sam
Hoyt of Erie County, the bill's main sponsor.
state conservation laws already ban natural gas and oil
drilling under Lake Ontario and oil extraction in Lake
Erie, the Assembly legislation would close a gap in the
legislation to prevent all forms of directional drilling
in both lakes.
say directional drilling releases the toxic chemical,
hydrogen sulfide, that could contaminate shorelines or
the water itself and pose a public health risk. Arsenic,
lead, mercury, and other dangerous materials used in the
drilling process, as well as pipelines, could leak.
no natural gas drilling contracts or leases for Lake Erie
are listed with the state Department of Environmental
Conservation, a spokeswoman said.
said he proposed the bill after speaking with environmentalists
about the Millennium Pipeline, which is awaiting federal
approval. The 425-mile, $683 million conduit, proposed
by the Fairfax, Va.-based Columbia Gas Transmission Corp.,
would carry natural gas from Canada across 12 New York
counties from Lake Erie to the New York City area.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a tentative
approval for the pipeline in December to the chagrin of
environmentalists, as well as state and local leaders
and residents. They say it would threaten drinking water
supplies in New York City and Westchester County and harm
fish and wildlife in Lake Erie and the Hudson River.
bill in Albany, however, would not apply to the pipeline
nor does Hoyt envision doing so.
energy companies say the bill would hurt their industry.
bill would really limit what we do and what we need to
do in the future,'' said Julie Coppola Cox, spokeswoman
for National Fuel Gas Company in Buffalo. ''(Directional
drilling) can be done with little impact to the area where
we're seeking to install the facilities.''
officials have brought their concerns to Hoyt, who says
the threats to the environment outweigh the state's energy
I support efforts to provide new natural gas opportunities,
and hopefully at a lower cost, my priority is looking
out for the environmental impact of any such efforts on
the Great Lakes,'' Hoyt said.
lawmakers overwhelmingly passed legislation in January
to make the federal drilling ban permanent, despite protests
from Gov. John Engler. Wisconsin and Ohio are working
to pass similar laws.
Nalbone, habitat biodiversity coordinator for Great Lakes
United in Buffalo, said ''we're very excited about New
York state stepping up in line with the other Great Lakes
states are recognizing the value is beyond just what we
can extract from it,'' she said. ''You want a drilling
rig on a coastal zone or do you want to preserve it for