State Legislative Oversight - A Case Study: New York State Legislature and High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing of Natural Gas

43 Pages Posted: 29 May 2011

Date Written: May 29, 2011


New York’s position following other States’ development of fossil gas via high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) drilling, and the actions of its State Assembly and Senate Environmental Conservation (EnCon) Committees integrated the efforts and facilitated the communications of a wide network of stakeholder organizations and independent experts. These networking efforts were key factors explaining how New York State Legislature performed more effective oversight over agency HVHF well permitting processes than other states. In overseeing the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) HVHF permitting process, the legislature held committee investigations and hearings, reviewed agency regulations, made dozens of oversight recommendations to NYSDEC, and passed a temporary moratorium on issuing permits for hydraulic fracturing. Governor Paterson vetoed the moratorium because he felt it would deny new permits for low-volume hydraulic fracturing operations conforming to current requirements, and issued an executive order suspending “high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing,” thus potentially allowing vertical drilling HVHF. Vertical HVHF requires more well pads and vertical bores to produce the same amount of gas, potentially increasing risk of upwards migration of gas and carcinogenic and radioactive fluids into aquifers from well casing failures caused by high-pressure fracking. Will Patterson’s failure to suspend all HVHF create pressure on NYSDEC to issue vertical HVHF permits, or will NYSDEC continue revising its permitting processes in response to public input and legislative oversight requests? If NYSDEC continues its process, oil & gas companies are likely to be subject to more stringent requirements and to experience fewer financial pressures to employ risky drilling practices in New York than in other states thanks in large part to New York State’s effective legislative oversight.

Keywords: Natural gas, hydraulic fracturing, fracking, hydro-fracking, State legislative oversight, Environmental Protection, Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State

Suggested Citation

Dopp, Kathy Anne, State Legislative Oversight - A Case Study: New York State Legislature and High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing of Natural Gas (May 29, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Kathy Anne Dopp (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

United States

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