Written by: Jon Campbell
ALBANY — The natural gas industry and business groups are pushing back against a bill proposed Tuesday that would create a company-funded reserve to cover the cost of damages from any future gas-drilling accidents.
The bill, proposed by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, would allow the state to create the fund by tacking on a surcharge to permit fees for natural gas companies and other production facilities.
The fund would then cover the cost of any cleanup work from accidents during gas drilling or hydraulic fracturing if the cause of the contamination couldn’t be immediately identified, or if theresponsible party refused to pay. The state Attorney General’s Office would later 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 state Independent Oil & Gas Association 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 civillaw, which holds businesses accountable on many levels,” IOGA Executive Director Brad Gill said in a statement…
Another Senate Republican — Greg Ball of 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. (READ MORE)