ALBANY – The natural gas industry trade group is pushing back against a bill proposed today by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli that would create a company-funded reserve to cover the cost of damages from any future gas-drilling accidents.
The bill, proposed by the comptroller’s office, would tack on a surcharge to permit fees for natural gas wells and other production facilities to create the fund.
The fund would then pay for any cleanup work from accidents during gas drilling or hydraulic fracturing if the cause of the contamination couldn’t be immediately identified, or if the responsible party refused to pay. The state Attorney General would later be able to determine who is responsible and sue for damages, with any money recovered going back into the cleanup fund.
DiNapoli said the proposal is modeled after the state's oil spill fund. The bill would allow for leaseholders or other landowners to seek claims if drilling accidents were to occur, he said.
"Unlike protections for those who suffer from an oil spill, we don’t have a similar recovery and compensation fund for incidents involving natural gas extraction," DiNapoli said. "So we’re trying to provide a level playing field."
But the head of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York called the bill “premature” and said there is “simply no basis for such a fund at this time.”
“The proposal does not take into account existing permit requirements, which address bonding for site reclamation, and it does not acknowledge existing environmental, criminal and civil law, which holds businesses accountable on many levels,” IOGA executive director Brad Gill said in a statement. “The industry’s outstanding record of environmental protection in New York should give the public the assurance that we operate with the best interests of the environment in mind.”
The comptroller’s proposal comes at a time when the state is readying itself for a sharp increase in natural gas production. In recent years, national scrutiny over the safety of hydrofracking, a technique in which a mix of water, sand and chemicals is injected into gas-rich shale formations to break rock and unlock natural gas, has grown...
Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Putnam County, said the fund makes sense and could provide a middle ground for concerned landowners and gas companies eager to drill in parts of the state.
"If oil companies and corporate profits are through the roof, I don’t think that this specific industry would be harmed in any way by having to provide a safeguard against some of the horror stories that we’ve seen in other states," said Ball, who has held hearings on natural-gas drilling. (FULL ARTICLE )