Split over gas drill rules continues

ALBANY -- A coalition of business groups and a union representing state environmental workers added their voices to the debate Tuesday over proposed natural gas drilling in the state, with one urging Gov. David Paterson to push ahead and the other urging him to slow down.

The separate letters to the governor came as the state Department of Environmental Conservation nears a Thursday deadline for comments on a proposed 802-page rule book on drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, a natural gas-laden underground formation that stretches through the state's Southern Tier and the Catskills, and south into Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

DEC is drawing up rules to control "hydrofracking," a drilling technique that uses a high-pressure mix of water, sand and drilling chemicals to fracture gas-bearing rocks deep underground. Gas is then brought to the surface.

Critics of the technique say it creates large amounts of tainted water, and that few options currently exist to treat the water that can be returned to the surface. Some water also remains underground, and could pose a risk of traveling to affect underground water nearby.

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