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07/01/2011 10:21 AM     print story email story  

EPA Promises Hydraulic Fracturing Regs, NY State Lifts Ban

SustainableBusiness.com News

A moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in New York State ends today, and it looks like Governor Cuomo will lift the ban put in place by previous Governor Patterson.

The moratorium was put in place in response to growing evidence that hydraulic fracturing for natural gas pollutes underground aquifers with toxic chemicals. 

Hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") involves pumping large volumes of water and chemicals under pressure into underground shale formations to fracture the rock and release natural gas. 

The process has revitalized the domestic natural gas industry, particularly surrounding the Marcellus Shale formation in the Northeast, but it presents a risk throughout the US.

New York's moratorium only limited fracking that used horizontal drilling (as opposed to vertical drilling). Horizontal drilling has been used in over 3,000 wells in neighboring Pennsylvania.

In horizontal wells, drills go deep into the shale formation for roughly a mile and then turn 90 degrees and continue sideways for as far as another mile before injecting more than 80,000 gallons of fracking fluids.

The horizontal technique has allowed economically feasible recovery of natural gas in Pennsylvania - proponents say New York is missing out on the associate jobs and revenue. 

New York's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)  recommends the state allow horizontal fracking on private land “under rigorous and effective controls.” The ban would continue on public lands and in the Syracuse and New York City watersheds.

According to the Buffalo News, such rules would give drillers access to about 85% of the state's Marcellus Shale.

But a drilling boom won't start right away. DEC is releasing a 1,000 page report and opening a 60-day public comment period before making final revisions that will affect drilling permits.

As a result, horizontal hydraulic fracturing isn't likely to start until next year.

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) told the Buffalo News that ending the moratorium is premature.

“There are simply too many unknowns to risk inflicting long-term, potentially catastrophic damage to New York’s environment and water supply,” he says. “At a minimum, New York should wait until the [U. S. Environmental Protection Agency] completes its own study on hydraulic fracturing before even considering whether the state should permit this type of drilling activity.”

EPA to Regulate Air Pollution From Fracking

The EPA is developing air quality regulations related to fracking and is studying ground water risks.

EPA Secretary Lisa Jackson says the regulations will control air pollution in areas that face new impacts from fracking noting the growing smog problems in rural areas where drilling is taking place.

"There is a lot of activity around those wells and that has an impact on air quality — and we know it already. The EPA will soon be coming out with regulations to deal with the air quality around natural gas production,” she says.

The phrase "new impacts" is a red flag. Does it mean that existing wells wouldn't be covered by regulations, only new ones? EPA's regulations are due two years from now - we won't know until then.



Reader Comments (12)

Author:
Dennis Duling

Date Posted:
07/01/11 05:24 PM

The risks outweigh the benefits, and moving forward at this time is at best premature. The potential problems with water, air, and land are now well known. This article cites air quality problems. Another example is the Natural Gas "Blowout" that spilled thousands of gallons of hazardous fracking fluid at Canton in Bradford County, Pa. One result is that the State of Maryland has filed a lawsuit against the Chesapeake Energy Corporation for endangering its water supply. The EPA's followup study on hydrofracking will not be out until 2014, and the New York State DEC is too understaffed to monitor its own guidelines in the wake of an impending "gas boom."

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Author:
Ashley

Date Posted:
07/01/11 06:51 PM

I'm a resident of Morris County NJ, I work for New Jersey Environmental Federation, A non-profit that works to pass legislation to protect air and water quality. The lift on this moratorium is devastating. Politicians still aren't seeing the benefits of investing in clean and renewable resources to bring jobs and energy to our country. Wind Energy is so wonderful, clean and safe. No air pollution, no damage to the habitats around it, not water pollution, not one other non-renewable energy source can promote that. Why are they still wasting our time, money and health on dirty, health damaging energy? I work daily to make the world around me a more sustainable place to live, and I just keep getting beat back by the politicians who make these poor decisions to hurt the health of me, my family and friends. It's upsetting and beyond frustrating, but i will not stop fighting for my health, because thats what they want me to do, sit down and shut up. I won't, I can't. I know too much. We need to stand together as a United Nation and not allow our health and right to clean and safe drinking water to be yanked from us. People over profit.

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Author:
Skeptic

Date Posted:
07/01/11 02:08 AM

Opinions about fracking don't seem to have any data to back them up. For example, whose drinking water has been compromised by fracking and to what degree? Its all smoke friends until you can come up with hard data.

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Author:
BCDAT

Date Posted:
07/02/11 06:13 AM

Dearest 'Skeptic', I'm not sure what makes you think that the resistance to fracking is 'opinion'. Get ahold of me and I can physically take you to many wells in my area that have been ruled contaminated by the EPA AND the DEP (PA's version of the DEC). Why do you think that there is no hard data? Who the heck tells people these things? I am in awe of the smoke screen that has been put up by the corporations, the media, and our own politicians so that people feel the way that you do! It's as plain as the nose on your face in our neighborhood that fracking DOES cause contamination! Have you ever seen PURPLE water? I have. Have you ever seen someone with a lab set up in their basement by the gas company because their water has been ruined? I have. Please, if you don't know what you're talking about, please please PLEASE don't comment at all until you study the facts? Thanks for your consideration!

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Author:
Finisher

Date Posted:
07/02/11 01:57 PM

I believe that recent Technical developments in the treatment of processed waters(Fracking Fluids)represent a major step forward in safety in the hydraulic fracturing of gas wells in the Marcellus Shale and other deep drilling projects. The ability of drillers to re use the processed fluids will mean that the fracking fluids can be reused without the need for large draw downs from the underground water supplies or large draws on our surface water assets. Processed fracking fluids may be successfully filtered to remove a high percentage of the added compounds that until now have been of primary concern to the Environment. The ability to use this equipment is not limited to the drilling site; but may also be used by Municipal water authorities trying to economically "clean" processed water that has been used at drill sites. The ability to recycle these filtered fluids means that the drillers do not have to tap our aquifiers at the drill site nor to draw down from surface water supplies.

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Author:
Colin

Date Posted:
07/02/11 04:53 PM

Alot of DEP's ideas are pretty dumb. One example is their requirement of oil companies to lay a plastic barrier on the ground and build a "berm" around a drilling rig or other operation. I ask why?? There is no chance of that berm containing all the various fluids that could be spilled within it. They also require that fresh water (the same water we drink and wash with) be "contained". Why can I water my grass and lose a good portion of the water to run off, but if the same water is on a drilling site, its a major crime against humanity to have any of it get on the bare ground???? Why is that???? The mud that is used to drill with and treat the hole as its being drilled is also no allowed to be spilled on bare ground, but it is OK for it to be mixed with wood chips, or mulch, or even used drywall, and hauled away to be put in a landfill??? Is that weird?? The states inspectors are not on the same page with each other either, its easy to see that when I travel around for work and see some sites doing things that DEP "requires" but 200 miles the other direction, DEP doesn't "require" certain things for the same type of operation. Its all a big scam. Do a little research on windmills and see all the downfalls about that "green technology". All this stuff is man made and as such will never be perfected in a way that all will be satisfied enough to keep their mouths shut and be happy!!!

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Author:
Proud Fracker's Wife

Date Posted:
07/12/11 07:16 PM

So many critics. Everyone has to have an opinion. There are risks with everything we do in life and many more environmentally unsafe practices going on then hydraulic drilling. There are many more benefits that NY State will witness as a result of lifting the ban. Besides, my husband goes to work everyday to pay for welfare and healthcare. Go hug another tree and get off the pipeline...your in the way. PROUD FRACKER'S WIFE.

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Author:
The Other 99%

Date Posted:
11/22/11 08:06 PM

We are lucky to live in a place that is so historical and beautiful, it would be a shame to see it all fade away to hydraulic fracturing. It would effect everything that's worth living for. Our environment, our air, our water, our fish & wildlife and our health. If they go on with this proccess, I WILL leave New York State. The Earth is our mother, the reason why were here is to take care of it, not distroy it for unnessecary things. Speaking on behave of me and my generation, I want the same good start that you guys had. It's not fair that we will have to live with your mistakes. It should be our deccsion weather or not we want our future ruined by hydraulic fracturing. In 20 years were gonna be the ones dealing with the waste and distruction. What will we have left to show for it? Why would any one want to cause such harm to come to our environment, our children and us. I'm 18 years old, I should be thinking of all the great things that I want to do with my future after college, but instead I have to worry about the terrifying wolrd that I have to grow up in. Our earth is already hurting and it kill's me to think that anyone would want to watch it suffer anymore. This isn't some "tree hugging" hippy movement from the 60's. This is 2011, this is people asking for what is rightfully theres. Sure, there will be a huge boom in jobs and money but for how long? You can only frack a well so many times before theres nothing left, after all the gas is gone whats going to happen? We will be left with NOTHING! You can say goodbye to our unfiltered drinking water, our fresh water and the creatures living in it and off of it. Plants and animals need water to survive just as much as humans or any other living thing.. Common sense? I want clean unfiltered drinking water and fresh air, I am the 99%! "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." -Aldo Leopold (environmentalist & author of The Sand's County Allmanac)

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Author:
Classical Liberal

Date Posted:
11/30/11 05:11 PM

If fracking occurs horizontally at a depth of 12,000 feet, underneath bedrock, and 2000 feet of surface casing is cemented in place, exactly how does a fracture migrate to the ground water, that is upward at least 5000 feet, and breach into an aquifer?

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Author:
joe compton

Date Posted:
02/05/12 08:20 PM

I cannot believe that we are all even having this discussion. There is no possible way that Hydrofracking can be done safely! We are risking our fresh water,air, and soil. The oil company's have proven over and over that there is no safe way to drill and transport oil. They have polluted our worlds oceans, with oil spills and,failed wells. Just look at the Golf Coast. The only thing that they can guarantee is that there is no safe way to protect our water,land, or air from their thirst for money and power.

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Author:
Factman

Date Posted:
07/23/13 03:37 PM

People who don't understand fracing are the ones most afraid of it. We've been fracing in this country for over 60 years now but now that it's doing something good the media has to make it look bad because that's how the oil industry is treated. I'm sick of hearing people who have no idea how the industry works speculate about health and safety just because they read an article or watched a documentary made by some nutjob who thought he could make a quick buck by scaring people...Ground water contamination in Pennsylvania happened 100 years ago before we ever started drilling there because of natural fractures caused be faults in the ground (the same way earthquakes occur) because the ground water had hydrocarbons in it we figured out there must be oil or gas deep beneath it. The early reservoirs found in this country were found because of naturally occurring groundwater contamination. Contamination was not caused by fracing...It's always been there but go ahead and get scared by the government and media cause everyone is quick to hate on oil but you'll still go fill up your car's gas tank later...Oh and hybrid owners shouldn't think they're being any better...Electric generators are usually fueled by the burning of natural gas. Energy doesn't just come from nothing people.

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Author:
Rona Fried

Date Posted:
07/24/13 01:29 PM

Factman, you are short on facts. Fracking has not been done for 60 years, the technology was developed by our federal government about a decade ago, which allows much deeper drilling using horizontal fracking. Since then, we've seen this boom, which is literally industrializing rural areas. Don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to live in the country and see it turned into an industrial zone. Same for our public lands. And the methane released from fracking operations makes it as dirty as coal. We do not need this technology - we can get all the energy we need through CLEAN means - greater efficiency and renewable energy sources.

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