Fracking’s the way vs. no fracking way

| 13 Nov 2012 | 06:00

NY needs natural gas New York doesn’t work without natural gas. It warms our homes, generates electricity, and fuels commerce and transportation. Nationally, New York ranks fourth in gas consumption, but in-state production satisfies only about 5% of demand. Tapping the Marcellus Shale could reverse that disparity while yielding immense economic and environmental benefits. The climate implications of shale gas are profound. Carbon dioxide emissions from power generation have decreased to levels not seen in the U.S. since 1992. This trend is mostly due to the increasing supply and low cost of natural gas, which have led utilities to generate more electricity with gas instead of coal. Natural gas could become the primary fuel in U.S. cities and many parts of the world within a decade or two. Solar and wind can’t deliver comparable energy and climate benefits within the same timeframe, but transitioning from coal to gas now could buy the time needed to expand renewable energy capacity and further reduce greenhouse emissions. Contrary to popular mythology, hydraulic fracturing does not contaminate freshwater aquifers, and the water intensity – the amount of water used per unit of energy produced – of shale gas is low compared to other fuels. The Department of Environmental Conservation’s strict requirements for well construction and wastewater management, among many other environmental controls, will minimize pollution risks. Unlike coal, gas combustion produces no mercury, sulfur dioxide, fine particulates or toxic ash. Shale gas development in New York would employ thousands; generate billions in tax revenue, royalties and business-to-business spending; and provide a second chance for once-prosperous Southern Tier communities. All energy sources carry risks and impacts, natural gas included, but policy based on fear and myth is bad policy. Misguided efforts to ban hydrofracking would deprive all New Yorkers of the immeasurable benefits of in-state gas production. Instead of locking up resources, let’s adopt a regulatory framework that balances our energy needs and environmental priorities. John Conrad Principal hydrogeologist, Conrad Geoscience Poughkeepsie, NY Safe fracking is a myth The oil & gas industry claims that gas is cleaner than other fossil fuels, brings jobs, economic prosperity, cheap energy independence. These are myths. • Fracking squanders fresh water, 5.5 million gallons average per well, 100% of which becomes contaminated — permanently — with critically diminishing supplies of fresh water in the U.S. and the world. • Fracking requires unbiodegradable toxic chemicals. These rise with the gas, along with heavy metals and radioactive substances loosened by the process. • There’s no sure way to decontaminate these materials from billions of gallons of once-fresh water. • 30% to 70% of toxic fracking chemicals remain underground. • The now-mixed substances can become toxic plumes spreading into old fissures and new drilling fractures. • No one can predict or control the underground migration of these toxic plumes. They’re already under Sublette County, Wyoming, Endicott, New York, and Greenpoint, Brooklyn. • No one can control the time frame — years, decades, millennia? — over which such plumes migrate. • In this era of economic plummet, who has billions to build waste treatment plants, which do not yet exist, that might be able to filter frack waste? • Even if money were found, once supposedly filtered, toxic waste still must go somewhere. • No one can avoid the great risk of well leakage, aquifer contamination or earthquakes from high-pressure disposal in injection wells. • The industry claims natural gas will give us energy independence, but Asian, European and Canadian corporations already own significant pieces of U.S. drilling companies, land and leases. Corporations sell where it’s most profitable, regardless of national boundaries. • Without 24/7 enforcement, there’s no assurance that drillers will stick to the rules and safeguard the safety and health of people, other living things or the environment. Is it rational to accept drilling in agricultural areas and watersheds that produce the food and drinking water for millions? Carl Arnold Member, Sierra Club Gas Drilling Task Force Atlantic Chapter, NY