Fracking Truck Traffic Could Take Heavy Toll on New York Roads, Report Warns

A leaked report warns that heavy truck traffic from hydraulic fracturing operations in New York State could cause as much as $222 million worth of damage annually to local roads. According to a Press Connects report, the draft document, “Transportation impacts of potential Marcellus Shale Gas Development,” was somehow obtained from the New York Department of Transportation (DOT) and posted last week on the Chenango, Delaware and Otsego Gas Drilling Opposition Group website.

A moratorium on high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing expired in New York last month, and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has recommended that fracking be allowed on private lands in the state. If the DEC’s recommendations are adopted, as appears likely, 85 percent of the Marcellus Shale in New York would be accessible to natural gas extraction via fracking.

If that happens, New Yorkers should expect that heavy truck traffic from fracking operations will take a significant toll on the state’s local roads. Dated June 22, the leaked DOT draft document estimates that fracking could bring 7,000 new natural gas wells to the state; however, that number could exceed 12,000 if the drilling proves to be profitable.

The report estimates that natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale could increase heavy truck traffic on local roads by as much as 1.5 million more trips per year. Repairing road damage caused by those trucks could cost state and local municipalities between $121 million to $222 million PER YEAR.

“It will be necessary to reconstruct hundreds of miles of roads and scores of bridges and undertake safety and operational improvements in many areas” where Marcellus Shale drilling is expected to take place, the report states.

What’s worse, the report warns that the money to handle such repairs may not be there, stating “there is no mechanism in place allowing state and local governments to absorb these additional transportation costs without major impacts to other programs and other municipalities in the state.”

According to Press Connects, New York’s environmental regulators are already disavowing the DOT draft report. A spokesperson for the state DEC pointed out that the leaked document is based on a 2009 draft of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) — the set of fracking regulations currently being drafted by the DEC. According to the DEC, the DOT’s draft report does not take into account significant restrictions on drilling contained in the current SGEIS proposal. The final draft SGEIS will include mitigation measures associated with road use, the DEC spokesperson said.

In Pennsylvania, where natural gas drilling is already booming in the Marcellus shale, municipalities often look to drilling companies to repair wear and tear to local roads caused by fracking truck traffic. There, many municipalities have entered directly into road-use agreements with drillers rather than enacting road-protection ordinances because it is a less complicated process, Press Connects said. But one Pennsylvania official warned that such agreements usually require constant vigilance on the part of municipalities.

“If you’re Johnny-on-the-spot, you can solve some of these problems, but if they do it and get away with it, you’re out of luck,” Randy Jennings, a supervisor in West Burlington Township in Pennsylvania’s Bradford County, told Press Connects. “If you don’t catch them, they’re here today and gone tomorrow.”

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