NY State Fracking Solution, Only in Impoverished Communities?
After receiving tens of thousands of letters opposing natural gas fracking in NY State including a coalition of medical doctors, and 100 towns voting to ban it, Governor Cuomo is leaning toward allowing fracking only in towns that want it, and only in several impoverished counties where the Marcellus Shale is deepest (2000 feet), which would reduce the risk of groundwater contamination.
Some communities favor fracking because of the money they make leasing land.
It would be banned in Catskill Park, aquifers and nationally designated historic districts. Drillers would be required to maintain a 1,000-foot buffer from water sources. It would reduce fracking permits from 75 to 50 in the first year.
There is no requirement that methane be captured, which research shows makes fracking comparable to coal in terms of emissions.
The strategy is contingent on whether state regulators give final approval for fracking, which is expected this summer. The natural gas industry has spent $4.5 million on lobbying in NY, according to the NY Public Interest Group.
"Sending a polluting industry into our most economically impoverished communities is a violation of environmental justice," says Sandra Steingraber, founder of New Yorkers Against Fracking, a biologist and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Ithaca College. "Partitioning our state into frack and no-frack zones based on economic desperation is a shameful idea and we will actively oppose its implementation."
She notes that at least one Southern Tier community is already struggling with excess cancer rates and birth defects as a result of past boom-and-bust industrial practices that have left plumes of contaminated groundwater in their wake.
Vermont banned fracking.