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Drilling could harm Queens’ water

The debate over drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, which stretches from the Catskill Mountains to Ohio, does not sound like a city issue. But the eastern edge of the region is beneath the watersheds that supply our drinking water and the method of extracting natural gas from the shale risks contaminating the watershed. Accordingly, I voted against the legislation permitting the drilling.

Gas drilling firms offer landowners in depressed upstate areas leases for greater sums than the property could fetch on the real estate market.

New York imports 95 percent of our natural gas from the Gulf Coast and Canada. But to extract the gas, drillers use hydraulic fracturing, popularly called “fracking,” which pumps millions of gallons of water, sand and undisclosed chemicals into gas reserves more than a mile underground. There is no evidence to prove the watershed would not be contaminated. Studies from other states where fracking has occurred links the process with contamination of wells and streams.

We have city residents whose tap water comes from the region in question. The watershed that sits above the Marcellus Shale is so pure the water requires no treatment. The city Department of Environmental Protection’s effective monitoring of the watershed since 1993 means the federal Environmental Protection Agency has exempted the city from having to construct and maintain a multibillion dollar filtration system — a cost which would be passed on to taxpayers.

Weighing the facts, I believe the 9 million residents’ need for clean drinking water trumps the benefit of gas drilling operations. There are too many unknowns and I do not want to jeopardize New Yorkers’ tap water.

Although hearings about this issue are being held statewide in the coming weeks, I stand by my “no” vote.

Toby Stavisky

State Senator

Whitestone

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