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Local News

February 6, 2013

State: Firm must reduce fracking risk

Local advocates questionefficacy of agreement

COOPERSTOWN — State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on Tuesday heralded a new agreement with Cabot Oil and Gas that commits the company to revealing its policy for “eliminating or minimizing” the use of toxins in hydraulic fracturing fluids.

But two local advocates for greater transparency in the chemicals used to frack shale formations for natural gas said the agreement stops short of telling the public precisely what toxic substances those fluids contain.

DiNapoli, as sole trustee of the state’s $150 billion pension fund for public employees and retirees, said the agreement with Cabot prompted him to withdraw his shareholder proposal demanding disclosure of the policies governing fracking fluids.

Cabot, as part of its new policy, said it will “encourage development and use of more environmentally benign hydraulic fracturing fluid additives.”

It also said it was committing to “transparency” by disclosing the composition of frack fluid additives “to the extent permitted by suppliers, while respecting intellectual property rights, and proprietary and confidential business information.”

In a statement, DiNapoli said: “Cabot has taken a positive step to reduce risk to shareholders, the environment and the communities in which it operates. ... Shareholder value is better protected when companies disclose the risks associated with the hydraulic fracturing process.”

Lou Allstadt of Cooperstown, a retired Mobil Oil Corp. vice president who oversaw the company’s drilling operations in the Western Hemisphere, said he questioned the significance of the agreement, noting the public will still be in the dark on the makeup of Cabot’s fracking fluids.

“If Cabot comes through with what they said they would do, all we will know is what Cabot’s procedures are to try to use less toxic chemicals,” Allstadt said. “That doesn’t mean they will not be toxic. It doesn’t mean they will not be spilled. It just means they say they are trying to use less toxic chemicals.”

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