Issue December 7, 2011 FRACKING UPDATE #5

THE recent deferral of a reckoning with natural-gas drilling—New York extended its comment period on rules a month to mid-January while the Delaware River Basin Commission, at loggerheads, delayed its November 21 vote on requirements indefinitely—might make the industry seem stymied. Rest assured: Its forces are deployed and its financial muscle suggests a battlewagon with a name like Indomitable or Indefatigable.

Issue November 23, 2011 FRACKING UPDATE #4

Not one documented instance of groundwater pollution—this has been the natural-gas industry’s unremitting refrain. Upon it the industry and its powerful supporters have built an edifice of the word “safe.” From there its mercenaries have poured hot scorn, arrows of derision, and labels like ”insurgents” on environmentalists and worried citizens alike.

With a few exceptions named Dimrock (Pa.), Jackson County (W. Va.), Garfield County (Colo.), and Dish (Tx.), its claim has stood fast. Against a huge bonanza of cheap fossil fuel, from native sources no less, what are a few small messes when the nation’s energy emancipation is at hand?

Well, perhaps not so small. It’s time to add Pavillion (Wy.) to the list.

Issue November 10, 2011 FRACKING UPDATE #3

It makes sense: New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation is apprehensive about the air quality of the natural-gas boom poised to overspread the state’s lower half. After all, one of DEC’s main charges stems from the federal Clean Air Act of 1970. But the sheer size of this coming boom already poses daunting challenges, first among them being to comprehend just exactly how big it’s going to be.

How gas drilling might affect farmers
by Tracy Frisch

Adapted from an article entitled "Farmers Get Fracked," published in The Valley Table: The Magazine of Hudson Valley Farms, Food and Cuisine, Sept. – Nov. 2011.

Slope Farm, in the Delaware County town of Meredith, has become one of the major producers of pasture-raised and finished beef for the metropolitan New York markets. However if the shale gas underlying much of the state begins to be exploited around him, farmer Ken Jaffe, who switched careers after 25 years as a family physician, says he’s “basically out of business.” 

That's because his biggest customer—Park Slope Coop in Brooklyn, which buys 40 percent of his meat (one cow a week), has stated it will not source agricultural products grown in areas where hydraulic fracking activity for natural gas is underway. 

Issue October 20, 2011 FRACKING UPDATE #2

As New Yorkers await the State DEC’s final fracking regulations before it begins issuing drilling permits, among the big worries about the hydraulic fracturing—fracking—process is its gulping thirst for fresh water, 3 to 7 million gallons of it per frack. (Three million gallons is equal to a one-acre pond ten feet deep.) Using the DEC’s average of 1,600 new wells a year and four fracks per well that year, simple math puts the amount of fresh New York water needed by the industry per year at four Copake Lakes, or one Candilestick Lake every four or five years—for 30 straight years.

Not that the DEC will let the industry drain a residential lake, or any lake for that matter, but Big Gas hasn’t been forthright about whence its water will come. Lake Erie is invitingly close. (The 30-year drilling cycle the industry says it has in mind for New York State could lower Erie by a foot.)

Issue September 15, 2011 Fracking Update #1

New york citizens concerned about fracking have a little longer to compose comments on the just-released Revised Draft of proposed requirements for The Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program. Where once Governor Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Martens thought a 30-day period was sufficient, it’s now 90 days, ending December 12. However, it’s not 180 days, as environmental groups and residents requested.

Almost in parallel, in early October, the State will issue the full set of proposed gas-drilling regulations. Comments are welcome under the same regime and also due by December 12. (See DEC’s website for details.)

The State will also hold four hearings in November, three in fracking areas and one in New York City, dates and locations to be announced shortly.

Issue September 9, 2011

What is a conservative Republican State Senator doing standing in the way of a big economic program ostensibly full of new jobs?

Said Greg Ball (R-Putnam and Eastern Dutchess), “We’re on the precipice of a multibillion-dollar industry coming into our state.” The Senator had questions. “To come and profit off of our land and our resources, these questions better get answered.”

But some of them wouldn’t get answered, at least that day.

Ball was head of an August 22 hearing to assess high-pressure hydraulic fracturing or fracking, the natural-gas industry’s complex technology for freeing gas from shale. He hoped to bring together the drilling industry, experts, opponents, and several Pennsylvania citizens who’d had first-hand experience of the industry’s work.