A group of national and local environmental advocacy groups plan to fight proposed rules in New York that would allow hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling in limited areas.
According to a report from The New York Times, even the limited allowance of fracking drilling in portions of New York state has drawn the ire of several groups that have waged aggressive campaigns to date to keep the experimental natural gas exploration method outside the state, largely. A moratorium on fracking set in place by then-Gov. David Patterson has expired and Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced that he’s set to allow fracking drilling in five counties bordering Pennsylvania.
The announcement from Cuomo comes ahead of the release of a full safety review conducted by several agencies in the state government that aimed to explore all the environmental and health concerns surrounding fracking drilling, as well as the potential benefits to the state. The environmental groups opposed to the plan – led by national groups The Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council and joined by several local anti-fracking groups – want an independent review of fracking before the state allows it to be conducted.
In a statement released by the combined groups they state, “Any decision as to whether or not to frack anywhere in New York State should not be made before the impacts to our health, environment and economy have been comprehensively and properly assessed,” The Times reports. “Until we have a complete and independent study of the impacts to public health and the environment and the costs to our communities, the state will simply not be in a position to make a decision as to whether fracking should be permitted in New York.”
New Yorkers have balked at allowing fracking drilling at rates seen in Pennsylvania, largely in part due to the problems and complications surrounding the relatively untested method of extracting natural gas from underground shale. Much of southern New York lay atop the massive Marcellus shale formation, which extends two miles underground from eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia and western Maryland, across much of northern Pennsylvania. Thousands of wells have been opened in Pennsylvania, using up billions of gallons of fresh water, sand, and a mix of some highly toxic chemicals that are rushed through an underground well until they reach the shale, break it apart and release the gas.
Many opponents to fracking blame it for widespread contamination, namely to fresh drinking water. Fracking, they claim, puts a strain on the vital resource and threatens to contaminate the water it doesn’t use because drilling fluid finds its way through underground fractures into groundwater. People living within a mile of a fracking well believe it has caused them to find alternative sources of fresh water because their wells are contaminated beyond any use, tainted with methane gas, diesel fuel, and other toxins – like benzene – believed to be used in the drilling process.
The groups also worry that fracking will put the fresh water resources at risk for millions of people living in the region proposed for new drilling. Many residents living closest to active wells also blame them for air contamination and adverse effects on their health.
New York Times reports several local media outlets are cautious about Cuomo’s proposed fracking rules.