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Fracking Oversight

Fracking Oversight

Southern Tier (WENY) -- An environmental researcher exposed public documents which he said indicate shortcomings in regulating oil and gas drilling. This is leading to questions of whether the DEC is equipped to regulate hydrofracking in the state.

Walter Hang of Ithaca runs environmental database firm, Toxics Targeting. He said DEC documents sighting water contamination and unplugged wells lead him to believe the agency is not ready to start fracking. But a DEC spokeswoman said the state is ready to impose comprehensive monitoring and inspection programs, if fracking moves forward in the state.

"With thousands of unplugged wells, you know, massive dumping of toxic brine into pits, drinking water contamination -- against that background, we've got to start all over again," said Hang.

He said DEC documents show ongoing pollution problems and more than 4,000 unplugged wells in the state, which pose a public health risk.

Hang added, "Until they've figured out how to do fracking safely, the shale gas moratorium has to remain in effect."

In a written statement, the DEC said, "By and large, complaints received by DEC regarding potentially leaking wells have proven to be from wells drilled before environmental regulations were put in place or were from naturally occuring sources of contamination."

We also called the DEP in Pennsylvania, where Marcellus Shale drilling has been going on for years, and the agency has adjusted and added hundreds of staff to oversee hydrofracking wells. A spokesman shared some advice for his New York counterparts.

"One of the pieces of advice is to get open communication with the industry, with the supply chain," said Kevin Sunday, DEP's deputy press secretary. "Really make sure that everybody is onboard with an idea that this needs to be done right or we're not going to be doing it."

The DEC said they've identified more than 4,000 orphaned and abandoned wells that do pose a risk to public health. The agency said they've plugged hundreds of those wells in the past decade, and they continue to do so.