Fine-grained Marcellus Shale sedimentary formation, which is found throughout the Appalachian Basin, up to New York’s Southern Tier, is among the world’s richest gas-bearing formations. The natural gas in these sedimentary formations is largely unexploited. Following a recent four-year study on hydraulic fracturing in New York, the final decision is now postponed until the end of this year – pending the outcome of a current study on the potential health impacts of hydraulic fracturing. This follows public and authority uproar that the potential health impacts of hydraulic fracturing are not yet adequately known or understood. The Green Party stands firm that hydraulic fracturing with its controversial drilling methods should not be allowed, but what are some of the other views involved?
Environment vs Economy
Environmentalists expressed concern that Gov. Cuomo gave the green light for an in-house assessment of the potential health impacts associated with hydraulic fracturing – in contrast to the call for an independent assessment of the potential health impacts. The Department of Environmental Conservation supported Gov. Cuomo’s view, rejecting the calls for an independent review. Gov. Cuomo said he wants science to guide the fracking decisions made, not politics.
The New Yorkers Against Fracking coalition wish to see fracking banned due to concerns over pollution and other environmental and health hazards associated with this practice of gas exploitation. Meanwhile, two chief environmental officials, the EPA’s Lisa Jackson and ECC’s Joseph Martens both stated that environmentally safe and responsible hydraulic fracturing is possible. Oil & Gas exploration companies are getting impatient – hydraulic fracturing in upper New York has been in the planning since 2008.
The environmental impacts of fracking are widely described and include most notably water and chemical use, and is specifically associated with high pressure drilling methods. Contamination of water (in many cases the single source of drinking water) with toxic elements is one of the greatest environmental concerns. Water sources can potentially be polluted with methane gas, ammonia, arsenic, chloromethane, iron, manganese, t-butyl alcohol, and toluene. Not elements that you want to have in your drinking, or frankly, water for any other use. Health risks are equally scary. Some of the toxins cause cancers, neurological disruptions, asthma triggers, and radioactive bioaccumulation. These chemicals can furthermore pollute aquatic and forest ecosystems, affect air and soil quality, extending the vast impact of environmental pollution beyond local borders.
In terms of fuel supply, scientists from Pennsylvania State University stated that the natural gas contained in the Marcellus Shale, could potentially fuel the entire US for two decades. Then there is the matter of job opportunities. Although widely debated, the Manhattan Institute is standing firm that up to 18,000 jobs opportunities could be available in southern and western New York, should hydraulic fracking be allowed. The growing unemployment rate in NY is indeed an increasing concern for state officials. It is therefore not suprising that Gov. Cuomo has used the terms ‘economic development’ and ‘fracking‘ in a single sentence.
Some sources hint that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under pressure to take decisions soon – a deadline for issuing hydraulic fracturing regulations is looming. Fracking regulations are under review since 2008, and the regulations must be passed by 29 November, alternatively, the matter will again be circulated for public review and comment, which will further extend the decision to allow hydraulic fracturing in NY, or not.
Citizens of NY, and the rest of the world, act now!
NY citizens concerned about their state and future resources, are called to act on the potential fracking in NY. The public outrage against fracking in NY was huge during the past six months, but NY citizens: do not tire. Similarly, citizens across the globe: educate yourself on the environmental and health hazards associated with hydraulic fracking, and to act on this. Our environmental resources are at stake – and yes, the need for economic development is acknowledged, but not at immeasurable environmental costs.
Photo credits: some rights reserved by World Resources, luidude and pingting via flickr