Fracking is a form of methane gas extraction that uses toxic cocktails of high pressure chemicals and water to fracture underground formations of shale gas, allowing the trapped gas to escape – some of which ends up being pumped out as fuel, and the remainder leaking out into the surrounding environment. Fracking as a process has only been used for less than a decade, and already has been the subject of widespread resistance across the United States and around the world. It leaves a toxic legacy of water and air pollution, and is contributing significantly to the climate crisis.
There is no safe way to frack, and Gov. Cuomo must do all he can to prevent the expansion of this toxic industry into our state. Here is why:
The Department of Environmental Conservation’s review has been grossly inadequate
DEC has led a shoddy environmental review process. The review was led by Bradley Field, who was recently revealed as a climate change denier who signed a public statement claiming that neither methane nor carbon dioxide contribute to climate change. This is at odds with the scientific reality of climate change, and anyone with these kinds of extreme views cannot be trusted with the future of our state.
The draft Environmental Impact Statement itself is wildly flawed as well, containing no empirical scientific data on drilling and fracking risks, no assessment of the impact of shale gas development on New Yorkers’ health, and no review of siting plans and risks of potentially explosive natural gas pipelines.
Fracking pollutes our water and air.
Hydrofracking produces immense amounts of wastewater filled with a secret toxic cocktail, sand and radiation. There is no known way to dispose safely dispose of the toxins in this waste, and it often is found seeping into groundwater, dumped in public rivers, sprayed on roads as de-icer, or stored underground in ‘injection wells’ where it poses a long term threat to human health.
Additionally, as fracking breaks apart rock formations underground, it facilitates the seepage of methane gas into groundwater. In certain places this gas has become so concentrated, that tapwater inside homes in fact can be lit on fire. Methane leaks are a hazard to clean air as well, and one of the key ingredients in forming asthma-causing smog.
All of these health problems are in part created by of aggressive lobbying by the fracking industry to avoid any oversight of their industry. Fracking chemicals are exempt from oversight under the Clean Water Act, thanks to a loophole created by former Vice President Dick Cheney (whose company Halliburton is a major manufacturer of the chemicals) in 2005.
Fracking contributes to climate change
Fracking is a major contributor to climate change. First, the methane gas that leaks during the drilling process is a powerful greenhouse gas – many times more powerful than carbon dioxide, which is also produced when the gas is burned. These emissions can make gas drilling more dangerous to the climate than other fossil fuels.
As a result of the gas boom across America, renewable energy projects are being cancelled and their workers laid off. Gas is preventing our country from investing in the new energy that we need for the coming century.
Natural gas drilling will keep America addicted to fossil fuels, and delay the transition to a renewable energy economy, which has the potential to create millions of sustainable jobs, clean our air and address the climate crisis that is triggering extreme weather across the country.
The fracking industry corrupts our democracy at every level
The industry spends millions of dollars on politicians and lobbyists to corrupt our democracy and avoid oversight. The industry has spent $1.3 million on swaying New York’s government, and a startling $727 million nationally on lobbying, campaign contributions and other political expenditures. This money has gone to make sure that fracking drilling is inevitable, rather than a real choice that New Yorkers should make under the guidance of scientific experts.
Fracking is a ticking economic timebomb
In areas where natural gas drilling has expanded, traditional industries like farming, agriculture and tourism have been displaced by dependence on fracking. This creates a ticking economic timebomb. Farmers cannot farm using polluted water, and tourism disappears for areas blighted by the rapid industrialization of a gas boom.
The fracking industry is riding a bubble that is waiting to burst. In leaked emails, industry insiders compare the gas rush to the Enron scandal – creative bookkeeping is hiding underlying financial weakness, in particular that reserves are much lower than publicly stated, creating the potential for a huge economic crash. Even during the boom-times, jobs are typically reserved for out-of-state oil and gas workers, and not local workers who need them most.
That means that local economies are left with the pollution, asthma, ruined roads, and local environmental damage, but none of the economic benefits.
Fracking is causing earthquakes.
In Youngstown Ohio, an area with no previously recorded seismic activity, there was a 4.0 earthquake on Dec. 31st, 2011 caused by an injection well filled with fracking wastewater. This water was injected at high pressure deep underground where it triggered an unprecedented seismic activity.
Fracking has been linked to 50 earthquakes in otherwise geologically stable Oklahoma, and dozens more in Arkansas. The long term seismic impact of widespread fracking is unknown, but the early indications from activity to date are that this process will pose long term risks that are yet to be discovered.
“Serious flaws plague NY drilling plan” Environmental Working Group http://www.ewg.org/release/serious-flaws-plague-ny-drilling-plan
“Is DEC up to fracking review?” Bill McKibben, Times Union. http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Is-DEC-up-to-fracking-review-3725692.php
“Science Lags as Health Problems Emerge Near Gas Fields” ProPublica http://www.propublica.org/article/science-lags-as-health-problems-emerge-near-gas-fields
“Scientific Study links Flammable Drinking Water to Fracking” ProPublica http://www.propublica.org/article/scientific-study-links-flammable-drinking-water-to-fracking
“Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers” New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/us/27gas.html?pagewanted=all
“Air sampling reveals high emissions from gas field” Nature http://www.nature.com/news/air-sampling-reveals-high-emissions-from-gas-field-1.9982
“United State Fossil Fuel Boom Dims Glow of Clean Energy” e360 from Yale University http://e360.yale.edu/feature/us_fossil_fuel_boom_dims_glow_of_clean_energy/2511/
“Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets” Common Cause http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=6721533
“The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind the Gas Boom” Rolling Stone http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-big-fracking-bubble-the-scam-behind-the-gas-boom-20120301
“Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush” New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/us/26gas.html?_r=1
“Fracking Earthquakes Becoming Serious Cause for Concern” DeSmogBlog http://www.desmogblog.com/fracking-earthquakes-becoming-serious-cause-concern