Saturday, July 02, 2011

Is Rochester, NY a ‘potential resource’ for hydrofracking and if so why has no news service mentioned this?

When you search online for “Utica Shale” images, you get the picture: Rochester, NY lies entirely inside the Utica Shale.  Much if not all the news on hydrofracking drilling in New York State has dealt with the Marcellus Shale formation, which has its northern boundary very close to Monroe County's southern edge.  The Marcellus Shale is shallower than the Utica Shale, which is why gas companies will drill there first.  But, the Utica Shale is on the drilling block. 

Concern about hydrofracking in the Rochester area, as I understand, has been about the possible contamination by hydrofracking fluids in water sources near Rochester because of their proximity to the Marcellus Shale.  Meaning, it could be in the realm of possibility that that via natural fissures hydrofracking fluids near both Hemlock Lake (where Rochester gets some of its drinking water) and the Genesee River (where a few get their drinking water) could make their way into our region’s water sources.  

But, have Rochesterians got it right?  Have we been lulled by the prospect that hydrofracking would not be in our backyard—that we were concerned solely about our neighbors and potential water issues in our area, but not right under our feet? One has to wonder because of the language in the  just-released report (July 1, 2011) by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC): “Preliminary Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program:  Well Permit Issuance for Horizontal Drilling And High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing to Develop the Marcellus Shale and Other Low-Permeability Gas Reservoirs”

On page three, you come to this:

“In New York, the primary target for shale gas development is the Marcellus Shale, with the deeper Utica Shale also identified as a potential resource. Additional low-permeability reservoirs may be considered by project sponsors for development by HVHF. The Department has received applications for permits to drill horizontal wells to evaluate and develop the Marcellus Shale for natural gas production by HVHF.”  (Emphasis added)

So is Rochester, NY a ‘potential resource’ for hydrofracking, and if so, why has no news service mentioned this?  If hydrofracking is being mapped out for the Utica Shale (as implied by the DEC’s mining regulatory program document), why isn’t a region as important as the Rochester, NY area mentioned?  

At the very least, it would seem a minimal courtesy serving Rochester’s public interest if the DEC and our local news services would spell out exactly what potential there might be for hydrofracking in our region.  It’s very strange to include the Utica Shale in the report and not mention one of the largest communities in it.

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