Hydrofracking ranks among the most contentious issues in New York. For each person clamoring for the jobs and economic development it will bring to the state, there’s another who strongly opposes the method of natural gas extraction for its potential to damage the environment.
I can see the points on both sides.
100 percent confident that the economic benefit to the counties that
border Pennsylvania will be absolutely astounding. They are among the
poorest regions in our state and it would be good to see their residents
finally do well.
I also see considerable risk in the consumption of vast reserves of
fresh water and the disposal thereof after it has been tainted by
chemicals. The Allegheny foothills and the waters that flow from them
are unique, home to equally unique plants and animals. It would be
horrible to see them forever altered as a consequence of Man’s actions.
Our predecessors already did that with the Niagara River in the name of
I see benefit in the moratorium on fracking (which would be improved
dramatically if it had an end date, which it does not). The state
Department of Environmental Conservation must be able to approach
hydrofracking from a reasonable, thoughtful and well-informed
perspective. If we grant the DEC some time to assess such development in
other states, we can maximize our successes and minimize our failures.
That’s difficult, though, with all of the one-sided propaganda thrown its way.
one of the most sensationalized talking points that dominate the
conversation against hydrofracking (and ultimately does a great
disservice to the meaningful aspects of the environmental movement): The
belief that the process can set your drinking water on fire.
goes back to the popular anti-fracking documentary Gasland. In a famous
moment from it, Colorado property owner Mike Markham puts a lighter to
his running tap and a huge fireball erupts. What the film did not say is
the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission found that the methane
in Markham’s drinking water was naturally occurring and not a result of
fracking. The COGCC also notified Markham and others with similar
complaints that they should be venting their private wells to prevent
the entrapment of excess levels of gas in them. In short, Markham’s
problems are the doing of Mother Nature and himself.
should also be noted that flammable water can be found throughout the
United States, even in areas far away from the typical hotbeds of past
and future gas extraction. Case in point, my hometown. It’s called
Gasport for a reason. The hamlet once known as Jamesport had its name
changed in 1826, when an engineering team working on the Erie Canal
found gas emanating from the ground and water.
Most of those
sites have long since been built over, but one remains on our farm. The
shore of a stream froths white, stinky methane-loaded compounds, and,
most interestingly, the water itself bubbles non-stop from gas. There, I
can repeat Markham’s experiment, although in a more natural setting
(sans tap). If I place a match over the bubbles, the flame expands and
puffs. If I lay a plastic bag over the water and allow the gas to build
up within it and then light it, the bag “explodes.
ago when hoboes traveled the land they set pipes in the water to create
eternal flames for cooking. And, believe it or not, this is
naturally-occurring. Hydrofracking has never happened here.
moral of the story is that we, as good citizens – and the agencies that
oversee our public welfare – should proceed intellectually, not
emotionally, when it comes to hydrofracking. We must ignore the hype
from both sides and proceed in a manner that best serves our people,
economy and environment. We have but one chance to get it right.
From the 22 September 2014 Greater Niagara Newspapers