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Late Friday, New York environmental officials announced that they would impose much stricter regulations on drilling in shale formations for natural gas in the watershed that serves New York City. The ruling applies only to this area. “In other areas, companies would face a far less cumbersome permit process that would rely on the state’s own environmental assessment of where drilling can be allowed,” reports Mireya Navarro of the New York Times

The drilling firms would use a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, where water mixed with chemicals is forced into shale formations. This method has been contested in New York and Pennsylvania, where drillers are working in the Marcellus Shale formation. But gas shale development is taking place across the country and everywhere drillers, environmentalists and land owners are tussling with these questions. The Environmental Protection Agency is doing its own study of shale gas production. See map above and this story

The New York decision doesn’t bad drilling in the Catskills above New York city, but under the ruling each new well would require a separate environmental impact review. The state plans to release its final regulations on hydraulic fracturing by the end of the year.

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