A fast-approaching deadline for the state’s ongoing review of shale-gas drilling drew a flurry of activity at the state Capitol on Monday, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration continues to weigh whether to allow hydraulic fracturing upstate.
A pair of filmmakers—one in favor of fracking, one against—traveled separately to Albany to make their case, while pro-drilling landowners reiterated their threat of a lawsuit if the deadline is blown and anti-fracking advocates pledging to oppose the permitting of even one well.
“There’s no need for more study with fracking,” said Phelim McAleer, an Irish filmmaker who produced “FrackNation,” a film critical of fracking opponents. “There’s been study done in Pennsylvania, it’s been studied and done in all these different states … There’s been all these studies done. As Al Gore would say, the science is settled.”
Josh Fox, the filmmaker behind oft-cited documentary “Gasland,” came to the Capitol in support of “C.J.’s Law,” a new bill introduced earlier this month that would establish strict safety regulations that would limit gas-drilling workers’ exposure to chemicals and the number of hours they can work in a day or week.
The bill, sponsored by Queens Sen. Tony Avella, a fracking opponent, is named after Charles Bevins, a West Virginia man who was killed in a drilling accident in Chenango County in 2011. Bevins family joined Fox and Avella at the news conference.
“One of the things that absolutely shocked me is the little or no regulations that relate to workplace safety and there are people who work in the oil-and-gas industry who are putting their lives in danger when they work at these wells,” Avella said.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has to finalize a lengthy Environmental Impact Statement on Wednesday if it hopes to meet a Feb. 27 deadline to finalize a set of proposed fracking rules or allow them to lapse. The agency hasn’t given any indication if it plans to meet the deadline, but DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens said his department may have difficulty if a review by the Health Department recommends additional safety measures.
Meanwhile, Fox and McAleer actually crossed paths briefly in the Capitol, with McAleer confronting Fox and attempting to engage him in a debate. Fox remained silent, but later offered a critique of the gas-industry while alleging McAleer has been “harassing” him over the past two years. (McAleer’s film includes a sequence in which he unsuccessfully tries to arrange an interview with Fox.)
You can watch video of the chance meeting below, followed by comments from Fox and McAleer: