Backers of natural gas drilling press Paterson

ALBANY — A coalition of business and economic development groups urged Gov. David Paterson on Tuesday to stick to the state’s draft energy plan, which includes support for natural gas exploration.

The group — comprising the Independent Oil and Gas Association, The Business Council of the New York, the Independent Power Producers of New York, the National Federation of Independent Business and Unshackle New York — said in a letter to Paterson that natural gas exploration in the Marcellus Shale formation would not pose environmental dangers, as foes contend.

The formation runs through parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio. In New York, it underlies an 18,700-square-mile area, much of it in the Catskills.

Opponents of drilling for natural gas contend the process — known as hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking — would pollute New York City’s upstate watershed. But Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association, says the coalition has found no evidence to support that claim.

Chesapeake Energy, a natural gas producer and the only leaseholder in the New York City watershed, has said it won’t drill there because of opposition from politicians and environmental groups. But opponents want a ban, saying the company’s word isn’t good enough.


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