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New York legislators propose ban on use of carbon dioxide to extract gas

Ted Shaffrey
School buses drive by an outcropping of the Marcellus Shale in Marcellus, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. A Texas-based company plans to use carbon dioxide to extract gas from the shale.

New York legislators introduced a bill on Friday to ban the use of carbon dioxide to drill and extract natural gas from the ground.

The proposed legislation comes in response to a Texas-based company's plan to use carbon dioxide to drill for natural gas in the Southern Tier’s Marcellus and Utica shales. The company, called Southern Tier CO2 to Clean Energy Solutions, has been asking landowners to lease their land.

The state already prohibits high-volume hydraulic fracking, which uses water to extract gas from the ground. Legislators sponsoring the new bill say it builds on the previous ban, which the state formalized in 2015.

“It’s legislation that will simply expand our current definition of fracking, to include not being able to use carbon dioxide as another medium to do dangerous fracking in New York state,” said Assemblymember Anna Kelles, the bill’s lead sponsor in the Assembly.

The actor Mark Ruffalo, who has long been involved in the movement to ban fracking in the state, joined the lawmakers for the announcement.

“This is a fight we're willing to have,” Ruffalo said. “It's ridiculous that the gas industry is now trying to get around our fracking ban by using an experimental form of extracting gas out of shale with carbon dioxide.”

Scientists and environmental advocates who joined the press conference emphasized that using carbon dioxide to drill and extract gas poses potential health and environmental risks to nearby communities. The process requires drilling into shale, which can put underground aquifers and water sources at risk of contamination. The rupturing of other pipelines that carry carbon dioxide has also resulted in serious health concerns.

In December, more than 90 environmental, public health, and community organizations sent a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul and other officials calling for a ban on the practice.

Southern Tier CO2 to Clean Energy Solutions did not immediately respond to a request for comment.