Friday, November 04, 2011

Hydrofracking decisions in New York State will not be based on science, but greed


If the basis upon which the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is making the final decision to permit hydrofracking (Fracking) in New York State is on science, they wouldn’t allow it. Period. They would abandon this irrational fossil fuel boom in our state altogether and clear the political path for renewable energy.

This quote by DEC spokesperson in today’s local news says volumes.

"We will consider all comments made during the comment period," said Emily DeSantis, the spokeswoman. "Any final determinations on setbacks and other changes to the proposed mitigations will be based on science." (November 4, 2011) Democrat and Chronicle

On December 12, 2011 The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will close public comment on the Revised Draft SGEIS on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program. Then, sometime after that, the drilling will begin because if there is fossil fuel to be burned, we will burn it even though it makes the Climate Change Crisis worse.
Remember, the SGEIS we are shaping into the drilling law of the land includes the Utica Shale (though they don’t say it in the title, it’s on page 7 of the Executive Summary) and Rochester, NY lies well within the Utica Shale, Google ‘Utica Shale’ and click on images. There you’ll see a lot of images and drawings of the Utica Shale blanketing the Rochester, NY area.

Also, the DEC has been gutted recently of jobs across the state meaning their role for educating, regulating, monitoring, and enforcing our environmental laws is being done by fewer people doing more work. (This, of course is occurring throughout all governmental agencies and business around the country in these lean economic times.) Now, we hear that because of hydrofracking, there will be a new job spurt over at the DEC. My question is whether the DEC will be severely compromised in fulfilling their main role as environmental protectors, if they are consumed by the potential environmental damage due to Fracking? Something, we should avoid altogether because it makes no scientific sense.

When you take a state like New York State that has many rivers, wetlands, all of the Finger Lakes, and a portion of the Great Lakes and you then you propose to allow drilling through the shale rock with undisclosed chemicals and vast quantities of our water and ask does that make scientific sense, you are begging the question. It doesn’t make scientific sense to suddenly implement a questionable and massive drilling operation in an environment that doesn’t already have it. If would be like saying, “You’re a very healthy person and though you have never smoked cigarettes before, we think it will be safe if you start chain-smoking.”

Here are some of the guidelines as you fill out the New York State High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Comments:

  • Please be clear and specific when providing comments.. If possible, reference specific page numbers of the document.
  • Please base your comments on your own reading of the documents, or the parts that interest you. Summaries which you read on the Internet or in newspapers may not be complete or accurate, and some on-line articles may be out-of-date.
  • Please be polite and avoid using profane, abusive or threatening language.

This is code for: If you are against Fracking because you think fossil fuel lobby and pressure has given this industry and unfair advantage, don’t bother us. If you think that it’s unreasonable and unscientific to drill all over our state and put our water in jeopardy, we don’t want your opinion about this threat; we want you to prove Fracking cannot be done safely. If you on general principle believe that Climate Change is happening in New York State and will have many unpleasant and Likely Changes and Fracking will at best produce more greenhouse gases (GHG) that will further warm up our planet, we don’t want to hear it because you cannot back it up with facts, because there isn’t sufficient information, and there isn’t sufficient information because few have the money to fund such studies.

The DEC is supposed to be committed to stop Climate Change and its effect on our environment (see, Climate Change - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation), however, they are going to spend what little money and people-power they have to monitor the Fracking process. Is the DEC taking their eye off the ball by permitting Fracking?

Even our local media is beginning to ‘get it’ on the overwhelming evidence of the science behind Climate Change:

Biggest jump ever seen in global warming gases - Canandaigua, NY - MPNnow Washington — The global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record, the U.S. Department of Energy calculated, a sign of how feeble the world's efforts are at slowing man-made global warming. The new figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago. (November 4, 2011) Home - Canandaigua, NY - MPNnow

Let’s be honest with ourselves before New York State goes whole hog over drilling for natural gas by Fracking. We are not going to drill because it makes sense scientifically. It doesn’t make scientific sense if you control the comment period by only allowing what facts are available in a field where most of the research is funded by the fossil fuel industry.

What would make sense scientifically would be to not take a chance drilling for more greenhouse gases, but to conserve energy, make energy more efficient, and help renewable energy become our major energy source.

When the climate deniers say we should use ‘science’ they mean let’s use all the studies we can cherry-pick on the studies we prefer, those funded by the fossil fuel industry itself, and push for more fossil fuels because that is where the money is. This myopic view of what people think science is will make sure we cook on our own planet. There is enough information now that Climate Change should be seriously researched around the world. Governmental bodies like the DEC should be spending their time on ruling out Climate Change because it is most serious environmental problem of this century. They shouldn’t be encouraging more fossil fuel drilling.

Because the DEC’s comment period is framed around “Use facts, examples and scientific or engineering principles as appropriate” those who understand that digging up more GHG and possibly endangering our water supplies are at a great disadvantage from the starting block. Opinions about what we want our landscape to look like should matter. Grave concerns about Climate Change and how it will affect New York State with extreme weather events that will overwhelm our waste water treatment plants, changes in growing seasons, and more heat waves that will require millions in public health costs—these concerns won’ t be heard or taken seriously. Those who want jobs and realize most of the jobs will be itinerants coming into the state and leaving when the well is dry will not get heard.

Most of us who are worried about these concerns do not have a whole lot of ‘engineering principles’ at our finger tips because we aren’t fossil fuel digging engineers. Nor, should we be.

We are the stewards of our environment and we wish our environmental regulatory agencies would be also.

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