Gas Drilling/Hydraulic Fracturing
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What is Hydraulic Fracturing?
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydrofracking or fracking, is a method of drilling for natural gas which sends a mix of chemicals, sand and water underground, creating cracks in rock formations and allowing gas to escape. A technical description is “slick-water, high volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing.” “Horizontal” refers to advanced drilling technology that allows the drill-bit to be turned horizontally and extend a mile or more through shale. “Slick-water” refers to the concoction of chemicals mixed with pure water and sand: “high-volume” refers to the 1-3 million gallons of the slick-water that is forced thousands of feet down and across the well-bore at large-enough pressures required to crack open the rock, which is Marcellus Shale.
Problems associated with hydraulic fracturing:
The overriding concern with hydrofracking for New Yorkers is the contamination of water sources. Hundreds of chemicals are mixed with water and sand in order to break apart the shale with drilling. After the well is fracked and the gas captured, this mixture rises to the surface. This flowback waste is laced with these chemical additives and natural emissions from the shale such as methane, hydrocarbons, heavy metals, barium and benzene, with the long-term potential of leakage from the well bore and well casings into water sources. Moreover Marcellus Shale contains a high level of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) and the contained radon is also a threat to water sources and the gas itself. There are no existing filtration systems in New York that can filter out these chemicals, toxins and radon. Fracking presents other dangers to the environment, but our primary concern must be the protection and preservation of the water supply.
How hydraulic fracturing affects NYC:
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in their report (RDGEIS)concludes: “The Department finds that high-volume hydraulic fracturing activity is not consistent with the preservation of the NYC watershed as unfiltered drinking water supplies.--The Department concludes that high-volume hydraulic fracturing operations within the NYC watershed pose the risk of causing significant adverse impacts to water resources.” Once contaminants from the flowback of fracturing fluids, chemicals and brine materials (including NORM) released from the Marcellus formation reach drinking water aquifers, removal of these contaminants from an aquifer usually is not possible. The only remaining option would be treatment through a sophisticated system to not only meet all federal drinking water standards but also treatment standards specifically developed for each additional chemical contaminant present in water withdrawn from the contaminated aquifer for which there are no federal drinking water standards, yet. Will there be federal standards? Will the gas industry provide such protection of all drinking water sources? Will the federal and state regulatory agencies compel compliance and rigorously enforce such requirements? These questions need answering before permitting.
LWV position on hydraulic fracturing:
The League of Women Voters of the City of New York recommends a moratorium in New York State on issuance of drilling permits for horizontal (and vertical) wells until: 120 days after the federal EPA issues a report on the effects of hydraulic fracturing on water quality and public health; incorporation of the findings of that report into the state legal and regulatory process; and adoption of a legal and regulatory environment sufficient to protect New Yorkʼs natural resources and public health.
NYC Fuel Directive to Halt Heavy-Oil Usage
Currently, large apartment buildings may be encouraged to switch from burning heavy oil to burning gas for heating, and be attracted by the current low price of natural gas. We would like to point out that there are many things to consider before making the investment to switch, and we recommend the information by the Sane Energy Project on this subject
References and additional information:
1. Department of Environmental Conservation Revised Draft SGEIS September 2011
2. Revised draft SGEIS Comments from LWV NYS
3. Revised draft SGEIS Comments from LWV NYC
4. Comments by Commissioner Carter Strickland of NYC Environmental Protection January
5. Protection of Drinking Water Supplies
6. NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection Final Impact Assessment Report of Natural Gas
Production in the NYC Watershed by Hazen & Sawyer Environmental Engineers and Scientists
7.The Radon Threat is Still With Us New York Times
8.Natural Gas Produces Radioactive Wastewater
9. New York Radon Information
10. Methane and the Greenhouse-gas Footprint of Natural Gas from Shale Formations (pdf)
11. Ohio Earthquake Likely Caused by Fracking Wastewater
12. "Homeowners and Gas Drilling Leases: Boon or Bust?" by Beth Radow for New York State
13. Short film THE SKY IS PINK by Josh Fox
14. Songs Against Drilling - New York Times
15. LWVNYS Letters to DEC in Response to Environmental Working Group Report
16. Letter to Gov. - Health Impacts of Radon in Marcellus Shale
17. Response from Commissioner Martens of DEC to letter sent to Gov. Cuomo re: health impacts of radon on Marcellus Shale (item #16).
18. Letters to DEC January 2013 and July 2011
19. Boiler Conversions: Surveying the Options
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