info 06.29.10

Fracking News
Every Person in New York

Believing the bland assurances of oil and gas companies that deep-water drilling and fracking in our watershed are safe practices seems like an increasingly irrational proposition. The short-term benefits, as we're learning daily from the Gulf disaster, come at far too great a cost: all's swill that ends swill.

Since we last wrote about the fracking threat in February, there have been some limited positive developments.

The EPA announced a study to evaluate "hydraulic fracturing's potential impact on drinking water, human health and the environment." Initial results: late 2012.

In April, the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation mandated that any company that wants to drill in the Marcellus Shale must submit to a "case-by-case environmental review process to establish whether appropriate measures to mitigate potential impacts can be developed."

That's a helpful hedge against the 'Halliburton Loophole', the right Congress gave gas companies in 2005 to frack freely, without the regulatory oversight of the Safe Drinking Water Act. But in our view, it is not enough.

Apparently the City doesn't think so either. The Environmental Protection Commission recently announced that NYC has purchased over 1,000 acres of land around the upstate watersheds to "buffer the land" against a toxic onslaught.

If you spend time reading about the fracking process, or watch Josh Fox's movie Gasland, the only sensible conclusion is that we shouldn't be fracking unless and until we can be sure it's safe.

There are several pieces of legislation that would put the brakes on the drilling. New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo has proposed a bill that would establish a moratorium on fracking until the EPA issues its report. Here's a letter to Governor Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Conference Leader Sampson, and Assembly Speaker Silver from, among others, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in support of the legislation. The Thompson bill would suspend fracking for a year. Add your voice here.

One more crucial piece of the fracking debate: what's in the fracking fluid? Gas companies don't reveal what goes into their fracking fluid because a) they currently don't have to b) they consider the formula 'proprietary'. That's just plain nuts. Last year, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., introduced a bill (known as the Frac Act) in Congress that would both reverse the Halliburton Loophole and force disclosure of the chemicals used in each company's hydrofracking fluid.

Not much movement on that bill. Meanwhile, states have started to propose their own legislation to require such disclosure. Wyoming became the first state to pass a disclosure bill, though the chemicals involved will only be revealed to state regulators if the company can prove the formula is proprietary. That might be fine if we could have sufficient faith in our state and federal regulatory agencies. After the farrago that was the Minerals Management Service, full public disclosure and the disinfectant of sunshine would be more effective.

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Jason Polan started Every Person in New York in March of 2008. He plans on working on the project until it is finished. Look for Every Person in New York on Tuesdays in MUG and daily at Jason's site.


Smith Street (from 2007)

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