March 7, 2011

A Fracking To-Do List

Last week, Environmental Advocates of New York rolled out our “fracking to-do list” for state leaders and lawmakers at a briefing in the state capital. Hydraulic fracturing, often called “fracking,” is an environmentally dangerous technique used to extract natural gas from underground shale deposits. We’re worried about all phases of the drilling process—the impact of the withdrawal of millions of gallons of water from area lakes, rivers, and streams, the toxic chemicals used in fracking fluids and their potential to leach into drinking water, and the state’s ability to treat and dispose of fracking wastewater, particularly when it’s radioactive.

Fracking has poisoned waterways from Wyoming to Pennsylvania. Our to-do list is comprehensive and designed to safeguard the health and safety of New York’s drinking water. Here’s what we want state leaders to do:

  • Pass legislation that will protect water resources and establish a regulatory permitting program to oversee large water withdrawals statewide.
  • Regulate fracking fluids by requiring the gas industry to disclose the chemical components in fracking fluids and prohibit the use of fluids that pose a risk to human health. New York’s environmental regulator shouldn’t be allowed to issue drilling permits until such regulations are adopted.
  • Close the hazardous waste loophole in current state law and require that all fracking wastewater that meets the definition of hazardous waste be considered hazardous for the purpose of transport and treatment.
  • Revise the state’s draft drilling plan and release it only when it’s ready and not a minute before. An Executive Order requires the Department of Environmental Conservation to update their draft plan on or about June 1st of this year.
  • Improve the plan so it updates and revises drilling regulations and include a cumulative impact analysis that addresses the worst-case scenario of up to 2,500 wells per year.

At the briefing, Susan Christopherson, the J. Thomas Clark Professor of City & Regional Planning at Cornell University, discussed the potential economic impacts of fracking for New York’s communities. Professor Christopherson’s research on fracking shows that individual New Yorkers may stand to benefit, but that the costs to local government are significant. Depending on the pace and scale of drilling, local governments may not have the capacity to respond to new demands.

New York is a battleground in the national debate about natural gas drilling and fracking. Drilling-related accidents across the country have contaminated drinking water, created air quality hazards and violations, and polluted streams.

Click here to see our own Katherine Nadeau interviewed about our fracking on Your News Now

Click here to read The New York Times‘ recent groundbreaking series, “Drilling Down,” on the dangers of fracking.


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