OP Ed Pages

Recent opinions expressed by local citizens and submitted to the media

WORLD WATCHING NYS ON FRACKINGCortland Standard. Opinion, Dec. 21, 2010, Jim Weiss, Marathon.

In his letter (“New York state lost”), Mr. Ken Diaz criticized Governor Paterson’s extension of the ban on hydrofracking for another 6 months. If Mr. Diaz had his way, there would be well drilling rigs all over the county by now.

Lets ignore the fact that 14,000 comments were submitted to the DEC on their proposed guidelines, including four from Cortland County (Legislature, Planning Dep’t., Health Dep’t, and Soil/Water Service).

Let’s ignore the fact that in Pennsylvania, besides Dimock, gas migration is being investigated in some 20 other Pennsylvania communities and that Cabot Oil was just fined $4 million to rehabilitate contaminated water wells.  (Personally, filling up my basement with water purification equipment doesn’t sound all that attractive.)

Let’s ignore the fact that Pittsburgh’s public water supply is measurably saltier due to contamination of the Monongahela River with waste brine from hydrofracking.  Pittsburgh just enacted a ban on the process.

Let’s ignore the fact that there were over 500 violations of Pennsylvania regulations by gas drilling operations in the first half of  2010 and over 1000 trucking violations logged by the state police (even a close call with a school bus).

Let’s ignore the fact that Pennsylvania hastily enacted new regulations on gas drilling because the existing ones had holes big enough to drive a drilling rig through.

The current conflict over high volume slick water horizontal drilling hydrofracturing is not just about New York State.  The gas industry has run roughshod over communities all around the country, and drillers are pushing forward in other countries as well.  The world is watching how this plays out in New York.  We all owe a debt of gratitude to the people who put the industry on notice that business as usual is over and New York State will not be abused.

Chris Applegate. This Landowner Makes a Choice on Gas Drilling.  Nov. 26, 2010 Press & Sun Bulletin. http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20101126/VIEWPOINTS03/11260306/1120/This-landowner-makes-a-choice-on-gas-drilling

Response to Palmerton op ed in July 7 Syracuse New Times: On Jul 13, 2010, at 11:02 PM, Mary wrote:
In response to Palmerton in New Times July 7th:  we’ll see if it sees print…

To the Syracuse New Times

Let’s Get It Fracking Straight

David Palmerton, of the Palmerton Group, a champion of natural gas drilling, would like us to believe that drilling for natural gas is nothing new and it is very safe.   He accuses Josh Fox of misrepresenting the facts in his volatile film Gasland. Mr. Palmerton himself presents the facts halfway.

“Hydraulic fracturing is nothing new.  It’s been safely used on more than one million wells over the past sixty years.”   Sounds good, but it’s just not so.

Hydraulic fracturing as being proposed, as being practiced in PA, WY, WV, TX, has never been done in New York State.    The more technical term for the new practice of hydraulic fracturing is High Volume Slickwater Horizontal Hydrofracturing.    HVHF involves using millions of gallons of water per well.  There will be groups of six to twelve wells together on a single wellpad.     Modest estimates of truck trips to build the pad for the rigs, build the roads for the trucks, haul the water and chemicals to the site, and carry the flowback fluid to wherever it’s going to be disposed of –  twelve hundred truck trips per well.  That’s a lot of noise and diesel fumes and wear on our roads.  That’s a lot of toxic chemicals stockpiled and handled in our fields    That’ a whole lot of water.  That’s all new.  At this scale, hydraulic fracturing is something completely new to New York State.   There have been major problems with the process elsewhere.  Pennsylvania has nineteen new pages of regulations in response to accidents.   The EPA has been ordered to do a study to look into the safety of drilling for gas and drinking water.   There are moratoriums being put in place all over the east .  All that action is not in response to this new practice being safe, Mr. Palmerton.

“Fluid made up of 99.5% water and sand is pumped into the hole to create small fractures in carefully targeted sections of shale rock.  When the fluid is removed, this releases the natural gas and allows it to rise to the earth’s surface via the self-contained system.”  Sounds good, but it’s half the story.

You fail to mention the vast quantities of water needed to fracture each well.  You fail to mention the hazardous chemicals you add to the water.    Most importantly, you fail to acknowledge the fluid become toxic waste once the rock is fractured.
Each well will use between three and eight million gallons of water.  Twenty tons of chemicals will be added to each million gallons of water (.05% by weight).   By the very function of the process, injecting the fluid under great pressure, fracturing the shale to release the methane, the fluid also releases, and takes up, heavy metals, salts, volatile organic compounds and radioactivity.  When it “rises back up to the surface”, as you so poetically describe, it is something other than 99.5% water.  Dangerous stuff, perfectly safe hibernating in the shale below us, is now in solution.  The ‘frack fluid’, or flowback fluid, becomes twice as salty as seawater, radioactive, and full of known carcinogens.    Tens of millions of gallons of what used to be our groundwater, our lakes, our rivers, becomes toxic waste.
A “closed system” sounds tidy, but there isn’t one.  The toxic, briny flowback fluid is pumped into holding ponds lined with plastic, or it is pumped into tanks.  There is no acceptable way to dispose of it.  In Texas, they injected it deep underground under pressure – it caused seismic activity registering 3.3 on the richter scale.  In PA, the flowback fluid has killed trees, fish, cattle, and it has ruined equipment at municipal treatment facilities. It is salty, salt corrodes.  There is nowhere in NY able to handle the vast amounts of toxic frack fluid that will be created.
And, a variable percentage of that toxic waste does not “rise back up” at all.  It remains deep underground, subject to the forces of the explosions of the HVHF processes nearby,  seismic activity, and natural fractures in the shale.  This subterranean toxic waste is subject to the integrity of the cement and steel casings that protect the aquifers – our drinking water.  Salt corrodes always.  Capped wells repressurize sometimes.  How long are those steel and cement casings going to hold up Mr. Palmerton?  Shall we look to BP and the Gulf for that answer? Shall we look to our highways and bridges?   You and I and the Palmerton group may be long gone when those casings fail and our groundwater is contaminated.  Our grandchildren will have to figure that one out I guess.

“Here’s hoping when it comes to decisions about our future in the real world, we rely on the facts. It is important that we proceed in a manner that is safe and responsible…”
THAT sounds straight up good Mr. Palmerton.

But what sounds even better, is energy that is sustainable and does not rely on a frantic dead end chase for fossil fuels, which are proving to be devastating to our earth, air and water.  Solar, wind, biomass, geothermal energies – these are for the long run.  If we are to be safe, and responsible, we must develop renewable and sustainable energy right now.  That is the legacy we could leave our grandchildren.

Mary Menapace
Skaneateles

Donald Allen Gulf Disaster and Hydrofracking

NYT Smart Moves on Drilling in New York By PETER APPLEBOME Published: June 16, 2010

Amy Mall Rebuttal to Wash.Post Samuelson Gas Article Aug.7, 2010

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