NEW YORK The city of Buffalo banned the natural gas drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing on Tuesday in a largely symbolic vote that fuels debate over the potential harm to ground water from mining an abundant energy source.
The city council voted 9-0 to prohibit natural gas extraction including the process known as "fracking" in which chemicals, sand and water are blasted deep into the earth to fracture shale formations and allow gas to escape.
The ordinance also bans storing, transferring, treating or disposing fracking waste within the city.
No such drilling projects had been planned in Buffalo, though city officials were concerned that fracking waste water from nearby operations was reaching the city sewer system.
Backers of the measure hope it will help build pressure against fracking, which environmentalists claim endangers ground water from leaking chemicals.
Pittsburgh, Penn., has enacted a similar ban.
Industry supporters say fracking is proven safe and natural gas from sources can provide a much-needed domestic energy source. For an index of shale gas companies, double-click on.
The Marcellus Shale formation underlies much of Pennsylvania and parts of surrounding states including western New York. Geologists estimate it could supply U.S. natural gas demand for 20 years or more.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is studying the impact of fracking and on Tuesday submitted a draft of its study to the agency's Science Advisory Board for review.
Initial Findings from the study are expected to be made public by the end of 2012.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta)