That’s why I’m particularly disturbed by a plan that’s underway that would permanently scar some of the most pristine natural areas of the state and at the same time threaten the integrity of our state’s water supply. What is this nefarious plan, you may be wondering, and what sort of villains are behind it?
The plan is to open up large parts of upstate western New York to hydraulic fracking for natural gas. And the villains behind this plan—besides the usual suspects in the gas and oil industry—seem to be our own elected officials in both political parties.
What is Fracking, Anyway?
In case you’re not up on this issue, the Marcellus Shale is a black shale rock formation that extends from Ohio and West Virginia through Pennsylvania and into western New York. For years geologists have known that this shale formation contained large supplies of natural gas, but the depth and tightness of the shale made gas extraction difficult and expensive. Recently, however, the development of hydraulic fracturing—or fracking, as it is commonly called—has made it possible for corporate interests to get their greedy little paws on this gas, which potentially could mean billions of dollars in revenue for them.
In order to drill for gas, shale gas companies come into an area, buy up drilling rights from landowners, and then raze large patches of land in formerly undisturbed natural areas. The process of hydraulic fracking itself injects thousands of gallons of water, toxic chemicals, and sand into horizontally-drilled wells under high pressure to release the natural gas from shale. The Fracking Procedure Dangers of FrackingWhile this process does indeed have the potential to extract large amounts of natural gas, there are some significant problems associated with fracking that have led most environmental groups to condemn the practice.
- With each frack 80,000 pounds of toxic chemicals are leached into the land. Seventy percent of fracking fluids, furthermore, stay underground and are not biodegradable. Methane and other toxic chemicals used in fracking can then leach into groundwater, posing a huge health risk for those who depend upon this water (and please remember, millions of people in New York City depend upon drinking water from reservoirs that potentially could become contaminated).
- Recent studies suggest that toxic chemicals released into the air during the process of fracking may pose a serious health risk to human beings.
- Fracking activities can cause seismic faults that can lead to earthquakes (as was the case recently in Ohio).
- The chemicals used in shale drilling may be linked to increases in cancer rates found among those who live near drilling sites.
So What Can We Do? As I write this, New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, is deliberating about whether to allow fracking to go ahead in New York State. The signs don’t look positive: Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos have already blocked a proposal for an independent health impact study of hydraulic fracking and are under continuous pressure from gas and oil interests to allow them to rape and plunder the natural resources of our state.
But what can any one of us do in the face of the millions of dollars that the gas and oil industries have available to distort public opinion and buy compliance from our elected officials? Individually, we can’t very much. But collectively we have the power to sway public opinion, force our elective officials to work for the common good, and prevent further degradation to our natural environment.
So here are a few simple things you can do if you care about this issue:
- Inform yourself about the issue, so you understand fully the price that all of us will have to pay if fracking is permitted in New York State. A good place to start is at the No Fracking site, which contains as much information as you could ever want to know about this issue in addition to many useful links.
- Sign an on-line petition to persuade Governor Cuomo to ban fracking in New York State. Or even better, call the Governor’s office directly to voice your opposition. The Working Families Party has a hotline that makes it easy for you to do this.
- Talk to your friends and family about this issue and get them involved. Remember, collectively we have a voice and the more people who commit to a cause, the greater the likelihood of success.
So if you really want to stop the environmental degradation and human suffering that comes from gas and oil drilling, then please,
- support the concept of renewal energy both as a personal choice and as public policy.