“We live in a protected agricultural district and our local zoning laws strictly prohibit this type of development,” Malick said. “Although it was a federal project, it required several state permits.”
Since then, Malick said residents in her neighborhood suffer from the often-deafening noise from the machine and worry of the unknown health hazards that natural gas drilling will potentially bring. She added that many longtime residents have also moved from the community.
“We’re all experiencing (health) symptoms that we never had before the facility was built,” she added. “Rather than putting the brakes on the permits until we understand the health implications, our state agencies are handing out permits like candy on Halloween.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to take a definitive stance on the controversial practice of hydrofracking – a method to extract natural gas from the ground - and hearings continue over the State Energy Planning Board’s decision to expand the use of the practice in New York State.
In the meantime, the Environment New York Research and Policy Center presented a study of local testimonials on the effects of natural gas drilling to push the state to enact a moratorium on drilling until more information is gathered about its effects on the health of those that live in close proximity to these operations.
Heather Liebowitz, director of Environment NY, joined State Senator Tony Avella last week at his Bayside office to release “Shalefield Stories,” a booklet outlining dozens of testimonials from residents regarding their experiences with drilling operations across the country.
“Behind the alarming numbers that outline fracking’s environmental damage, there are real people whose lives have been gravely impacted by these polluting practices,” Liebowitz said. “These are their stories and it is our responsibility to heed their words on fracking.”
Malick shared more of her own experiences with hydrofracking.
“When a company executive was asked during their scoping meeting for the project what would be coming out of the 252-foot smoke stacks, he said, ‘just water vapor,” Malick recalled from an outreach meeting with gas company executives and state agencies.
Malick said following their air permit application, the community discovered that, “water vapor actually meant over 100 tons, annually, of volatile organic compounds, nitrous oxides, particulate matter, formaldehyde, hazardous air pollutants and many, many unknown toxins, as well as radioactive particles.”
Avella has long fought the expansion of natural gas drilling in New York with the introduction of bills intended to regulate the effects of wastewater as a result to drilling, a plan to expand the health impact study from the state’s current investigation, and a bill to include a study of the possible seismic impact consequences.
“The damage that would be incurred would be tremendous,” Avella said. “If there is an environmental disaster, which we know would happen, the remediation cost would be astronomical.”
Avella added that under current law, New York City is allowed to utilize wastewater from drilling in Pennsylvania to be used on city streets as a de-icing method, yet another practice he hopes to stop or regulate with newly introduced legislation.
“It is absurd that we are allowing toxic material to be dumped on our roads,” Avella said. “Why should we take their garbage? If Pennsylvania wants to have hydrofracking, let them eat their own garbage.”
While there are some benefits from drilling for natural gas, Avella said they would only be temporary local jobs created in the surrounding community.
“The jobs that are going to be created are not going to New Yorkers,” he said. “The only jobs that it would create are like the ones for the local deli owner who put on an extra person for the workers, and that only lasts for a couple of months because it only takes three months to drill a well.”