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Hinchey joins opposition to drilling review


U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey said he hopes to draw a clear line between his stance on slickwater hydraulic fracturing and that of his opponent, George Phillips, in the race for the 22nd Congressional District.

Hinchey on Wednesday joined more than 10,000 others in signing a letter urging Gov. David Paterson to withdraw a draft environmental impact statement on oil and gas drilling in the state.

Hinchey signed the letter, drafted by local environmental activist and president of Ithaca company Toxics Targeting Walter Hang, at an event on The Commons.

Hang said he was glad to see Hinchey join the coalition of residents who signed the letter.

"We can't regulate this activity until the DEC (state Department of Environmental Conservation) is fixed," he said.

Hang said it's been a long fight to get to 10,000 signatures, and especially to get local politicians to sign on.

"I think when they saw (recently fired DEC Commissioner) Pete Grannis get sacked it really had an effect," he said. Grannis was fired over a leaked memo, which he said he did not leak, that was critical of impending layoffs in the department. The letter also urged the governor not to cut DEC staff or pollution control programs further.

Phillips has expressed opposition to Hinchey's plan to federally regulate the industry under the Clean Drinking Water Act, from which drillers are now exempt. He has touted the economic potential of natural gas development and said he doesn't have many concerns about the process.

Hinchey said Wednesday he will continue to push for strict environmental regulations before hydrofracking is permitted in New York.

"After the massive oil spill in the Gulf, which wrecked that local economy and caused irreparable harm to the environment, we just can't afford to move forward with reckless, unsafe drilling just because the drillers say it will be safe," Hinchey said.

"Let's not make New York another example of what happens when we let the 'Drill, baby, drill' crowd run roughshod over the environment," he said.