Some politicians in Albany and elsewhere in NYS support it. A relatively small number landowners who have leases or wanna be leaseholders want it (less than 10% compared to the 90+% of NYS residents who only stand to lose and don’t want it). The Oil & Gas industry multi-nationals have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying (bribing) NYS politicians to allow it. But it has been held up for over two years while the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation, which had originally said “okay”, has taken a second look at its inadequate regulations for it.
The “it” in question is Fracking. Fracking is the process used to extract natural gas from shale underground. The Marcellus Shale Play underlies parts of New York as well as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. The Fracking process consists of drilling a vertical shaft and then drilling up to 16 horizontal shafts off of it running through the shale layer. The ends of each horizontal shaft are then packed with explosives and ignited, breaking up some of the shale and releasing minute bubbles of the trapped N.G. Then millions of gallons of water combined with scores of toxic chemical are pumped into the shafts under extremely high pressure to further fracture the shale and release more N.G. Some of the toxic Fracking fluid stays in the ground and the rest is sucked out and needs to be either be cleaned for reuse or disposed of. Then gas lines are run from each well to pumping stations, which in turn pump the gas through bigger lines under pressure to either markets or export terminals.
Scientists and environmentalists have been pointing out the many potential risks and dangers of Fracking since the plans to use it were first announced a few years ago. Big Oil & Gas Multi-Nationals and local leaseholders have been trying to tell everyone that the process is “safe”. However there was enough initial evidence of Fracking being a potential threat to the environment, particularly the drinking water supply for millions of people in the Northeast, so that the politicians of NYS put the Fracking on hold and told the state’s DEC to go over its oversight plans and capabilities more carefully.
Considering the huge amount of economic pressure that has been put on the these politicians to allow the flood of permits that will create a minimum of 5 to 10 thousand wells in the Southern Tier of NYS; the threats posed by Fracking have been enough to make even some of the most money hungry, business friendly Pols in the state take pause. The reason behind this uncharacteristically cautious handling of the Fracking issue is that the potential environmental disaster Fracking can cause is one that can kill a political career as soon and as quickly as it contaminates a water supply.
Nothing is as important to a politician as getting re-elected and staying in power. Without their seat; a Pol is without their power. So only the few NYS Legislators (mostly upstate Republicans) who come from a absolutely safe seats have allied themselves unequivocally with the Frackers. The rest of the Albany Pols have taken a safer position of “well only if it’s safe”; hoping the state DEC will provide them with enough political cover if things go as wrong as they can. And some NYS Legislators have come out for a de facto ban of Fracking and the issuing of no permits until at least the Federal EPA investigation, which is currently underway, is completed.
The negative information and evidence about Fracking and the behavior of the O & G industry in places like Pennsylvania, Texas, Arkansas, Wyoming, Colorado – all of which have problems with Fracking and water and air contamination – has been so voluminous; that the EPA has had to launch their own investigation. During the recent Bush administration, Vice President Cheney and Big O & G executives met in secret and crafted amendments to the Clean Air and Safe Drinking Water Acts in 2005. These amendments exempted the O & G industry (despite the industries record as one of the worst water and air polluters) from the provisions of these acts. Despite these attempts to limit the EPA’s enforcement power; the agency felt the dangers of Fracking might be so substantial, that they have begun a comprehensive and complete investigation into the whole Fracking process. This investigation and the resulting studies will include the disclosure of the exact contents of Fracking fluid which the industry has thus far avoided. It will also include the withdrawal of clean water and the disposal of the billions of gallons of Fracking waste water that the proposed scope of the process will require, as well as the massive leaking of methane Fracking creates. Methane leaked into the atmosphere is a greater hazard as a green house gas than CO2 and ultimately according the latest scientific studies; makes complete life cycle of N.G. as environmentally as destructive and dirty as coal.
The Pro-Fracking Gassers are pushing harder than ever now to get going in NYS before that EPA finishes their studies and reports; because they are afraid that the more evidence that surfaces and the more citizens and politicians know about the dangers of Fracking, the less likely they are to allow it. The NYS Pols, from the Governor to the Legislators, to the County and local level are all being forced to take a stand; and it’s scaring them silly. If they succumb to lure of the money of the Gassers, as some Pennsylvania Pols have and things turn out as bad as they have in the Keystone State; the Gasser Pols are doomed to early retirement. However if they try to protect their constituency from poisoned water and air; they may face a Big O & G backed, well funded challenge in their next election. The result is NYS residents will be faced with a choice between a well funded campaign filled with promises of the riches Fracking will bring versus the well grounded caution of saying no to the false promise of money and protecting the irreplaceable water and environmental resources necessary for the any well being in the Southern Tier, New York State and the whole Susquehanna and Delaware River Watersheds.
The only way the residents of the Southern Tier can assure themselves of the personal and environmental health and safety they want and deserve, is to make sure each and every politician from the Governor on down knows for certain that if they allow or facilitate Fracking in NYS; they will not be elected or will lose their job at the very next election. NYS voters must insist that the same appropriate moratorium on Fracking in NYS that was put in place by the Pols when the preliminary information about dangers of Fracking were first made public, must absolutely be continued and expanded now that much more negative information about the environmental threat that Fracking has been made known. Should more complete studies of the myriad of dangers of Fracking show the O & G industry can not in fact use the process without creating health, safety and environmental damage; then the ban on Fracking must be made permanent. The need right now is for a strong show of commitment by the residents of NYS, both Upstate and Downstate, united against the multiple dangers of Fracking, telling the Pols of NYS in, unequivocal terms, that the only way to get and stay in public office is to represent and protect the interests of the vast majority of NYS citizens. If the 90+% of us who will be harmed by Fracking make ourselves heard, there is no way that the Gassers can have their way and override our right to protect our well being. There are many more of us then there are of them, so no matter how much propaganda their money buys; we have the votes to stop them and protect ourselves. Let’s join together and do it, right now.