Niagara Gazette

Local News

February 11, 2013

Amid debate, Falls Water Board used lobbyist to explore fracking in Albany

Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Falls Water Board hired a professional lobbyist in Albany to help it explore the possibility of treating wastewater from natural gas drilling sites while the debate was playing out in the public.

The water board's lobbyist deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office, the New York State Legislature and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on natural gas drilling and water treatment matters, according to reports filed with the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, a state entity that oversees lobbying activities. 

The board hired e3communications, a buffalo lobbying and public relations firm, from January 2011 to April of 2012, when the board voted to discontinue its relationship with the company, according to the documents.

The process of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking, creates thousands of gallons of waste water at each well. That water — which contains chemicals, traces of radioactive material and other toxins picked up from deep below the earth's surface — needs to be treated before being returned to the water table.

And so New York state's decision on whether to allow fracking in the gas-rich Marcellus shale — an underground rock formation that runs across southern New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and West — could present an opportunity for the water board.

Even if Niagara Falls City Council members voted unanimously in March to ban hydrofracking-related activities, including “fracking” waste, within city limits.

Water board officials announced last year that they were considering the possibility of treating wastewater created during the drilling process at the Falls water treatment facility as a way to generate additional revenue for the water board and to cut costs for ratepayers in the city. 

Paul Drof, the executive director of the utility, said the board's decision to work with a lobbyist was not an indication that the board supports fracking, but rather an effort to explore and better understand the issues surrounding the controversial process. 

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