Hydraulic Fracturing Draws Opposing Views
There have been opposing views on the natural-gas drilling process known as “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing, being considered in New York this week. Hydraulic fracturing is a proven technological advancement which allows producers to safely recover natural gas and oil from deep shale formations. This technology stimulates well production by injecting millions of gallons of water laced with chemicals down the well bore to crack surrounding shale. Sources say it has the potential to not only dramatically reduce our reliance on foreign fuel imports, but also significantly reduce our national carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and accelerate our transition to a carbon-light environment.
Not everyone has agreed that this is environmentally friendly. Opponents in New York are saying that water supplies are threatened by the shale gas development. Environmental groups, who once viewed fracking as a better alternative to oil production, are now divided on whether or not regulations can adequately protect against environmental damage from hydraulic fracturing Some even demand an outright ban of fracking.
There has been a coalition of groups including Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, and Riverkeeper, delivering comments to the Department of Environmental Conservation, (DEC). Letters and a petition from other environmental groups were sent to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo regarding environmental concerns. The petition had over 20,000 signatures citing, what they consider, serious flaws in the oversight plan by the DEC.
The groups are extremely concerned that the document by the DEC failed to address a plan for the disposal of millions of gallons of hazardous wastewater, an assessment of potential human health impacts, and to quantify any negative socioeconomic impacts, among others.
However, supporters of the technique say the proposed regulations will actually prevent environmental harm and drilling brings job opportunities and other economic benefits. If there is overregulation, it will be too expensive for New York energy companies to drill.
Because of the opposition, it has now caused a delay in New York on drilling in the Marcellus Shale, which extends from southern New York to parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. The gas drilling is moving forward in the other states, but New York drilling has been on hold since the review from the DEC since 2008. At this time, the DEC commissioner, Joe Martens has not set a timeline for the review to be finished and issue permits to drill. However, Emily DeSantis, DEC spokeswoman said, “If the final documents determine high-volume hydraulic fracturing could move forward in New York, we could begin to review permit applicants after the final (environmental impact statement) is released.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also conducting its own scientific study regarding the impact water resources incur from hydraulic fracturing. It is expected that the first findings of the study will be this year.
The DEC is to address each issue raised by the environmental groups to then move forward with permits. Only time will tell how beneficial or detrimental hydraulic fracturing will be for both our environment and economy.