Friday, December 09, 2011

Fracking, EPA study, NYS moratorium on Fracking and connecting the dots


The media is abuzz over the recent EPA study (Investigation of Ground Water Contamination near Pavillion, Wyoming) as to whether contamination in Wyoming lake water is due to a nearby hydrofracking operation. The timing for this study probably couldn’t be worse for the gas industry, as we New Yorker’s near the deadline for a decision on whether to allow horizontal natural gas drilling, hydrofracking, in our state. After January 11th 2012 it will be all over but the shouting—and there will be a lot of shouting.

Revised Draft SGEIS on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program (September 2011) - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation “Well Permit Issuance for Horizontal Drilling and High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing in the Marcellus Shale and Other Low-Permeability Gas Reservoirs DEC received more than 13,000 public comments on the Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) issued in September 2009. The Draft SGEIS addresses permit conditions required for gas drilling in Marcellus Shale and other areas of the State. In response to issues raised, DEC has prepared a Revised Draft SGEIS. As of September 7, the document is available for public review. To help those interested in understanding the issues involving horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing, several fact sheets are also available. Proposed regulations regarding high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) are available for public comment. Comments will be accepted through close of business on January 11, 2012.” New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Should we, as environmentalists assume, be connecting the dots between this study and Fracking in New York State? The answer is obvious: Drillers say no; environmentalists say yes. Did the Fracking operation’s chemicals end up in the lake? Who should you believe those who promise you jobs and lower energy bills, or those who say Fracking will ruin our water and scar our landscape (and a few of us who believe we shouldn’t be drilling for any more fossil fuel as it will add to Climate Change)?

Take a moment and get a sense of the news on this fractious news today:

  • EPA Implicates Fracking In Wyoming Pollution : NPR The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday for the first time that fracking — a controversial method of improving the productivity of oil and gas wells — may be to blame for causing groundwater pollution. The draft finding could have a chilling effect in states trying to determine how to regulate the process. The practice is called hydraulic fracturing and involves pumping pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground to open fissures and improve the flow of oil or gas to the surface. (December 9, 2011) Environment : NPR
  • EPA Connects 'Fracking' To Water Contamination : NPR For the first time, a government study has tied contamination in drinking water to an advanced drilling technique commonly known as "fracking." The Environmental Protection Agency released a draft study Thursday tying the technique, formally called hydraulic fracturing, to high levels of chemicals found in ground water in the small town of Pavillion, Wyo. EPA scientists found high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, and synthetic glycol and alcohol, commonly found in hydraulic fracturing fluid.  (December 9, 2011) Environment : NPR
  • Wyoming fracking pollution may fuel NY debate ALBANY — The Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that chemicals used in fracking natural gas wells are to blame for groundwater pollution in Wyoming is likely to fuel opposition to the industry in New York state. New York regulators haven’t issued permits for gas drilling with high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale since they began an extensive environmental review in 2008. A public comment period on proposed regulations ends Jan. 11, after which permitting may start if the Department of Environmental Conservation determines fracking can be done safely.  (December 8, 2011) NY Daily Record
  • Feds Link Water Contamination to Fracking for the First Time - ProPublica In a first, federal environment officials today scientifically linked underground water pollution with hydraulic fracturing, concluding that contaminants found in central Wyoming were likely caused by the gas drilling process. The findings by the Environmental Protection Agency come partway through a separate national study by the agency to determine whether fracking presents a risk to water resources.  (December 8, 2011) ProPublica

Connecting the dots on this story seems to hinge on whether you want to believe the environmentalists or the hydrofracking industry. It doesn’t actually. Connecting the dots hinges on everything you learned in school about geology, energy, Climate Change, biology, environmental science, economics, and politics.

This is an important issue and you need to do your homework. If you sit this out and just let things happen, you will be responsible for the future of New York State. Sure buying that special person just the right Christmas gift is important, but not important in the way this decision on the future of New York State will be.

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