New York lawmakers recently approved a bill that broadens the state’s existing ban on fracking. This new legislation prohibits natural gas drilling companies from utilizing a method that involves injecting large volumes of liquid carbon dioxide into the ground.

The bill received approval from the state Senate, despite opposition from some Republican lawmakers. It now awaits the decision of Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul, who is currently engaged in state budget negotiations. The state Assembly had previously passed the bill on March 12.

Fracking, a method already banned in New York, entails using a water-based solution to extract natural gas. However, concerns arose when a Texas-based company, Southern Tier Solutions, expressed interest in leasing land for drilling in New York last fall. Lawmakers perceived this as an attempt to exploit a loophole in the existing law by utilizing carbon dioxide instead of water.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins expressed optimism about the bill’s prospects during a news conference, emphasizing the urgency of closing the identified loophole. Democratic state Sen. Lea Webb, echoing these sentiments, highlighted the concerns raised by many constituents in the Southern Tier region, known for its abundant natural gas resources.

The method of hydraulic fracturing involves injecting significant quantities of water, sand, and chemicals deep underground at high pressure to release oil or natural gas deposits trapped within rock formations. Despite its potential benefits, fracking has been linked to environmental hazards such as earthquakes and groundwater contamination, prompting its ban in several states including Vermont and Maryland.

Republican State Sen. Thomas O’Mara, who opposed the bill, cautioned against rushing into an expansion of the fracking ban, warning of potential consequences. Southern Tier Solutions proposes using captured carbon dioxide from power plants to extract natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica Shales, expansive rock formations spanning hundreds of miles.

While company officials have not responded to inquiries, they assert that using liquid carbon dioxide instead of water could be more environmentally friendly. However, opponents of the bill and some lawmakers have raised concerns about the potential risks associated with transporting carbon dioxide via pipelines and the possibility of ruptures, citing a past incident in Mississippi as a cautionary example.

Sandra Steingraber, a retired biologist and fracking opponent, lauded the swift action taken by lawmakers to address the issue, emphasizing the inherent risks associated with drilling activities. She contends that any form of drilling poses significant environmental risks without commensurate benefits.