Communities are being torn apart by the growing divide between the minority of citizens who are hoping to profit from fracking and the majority of New York residents (recent Siena poll) who oppose it based on health and environmental concerns.
Fracking has become “the elephant in the room,” dominating thought and discussion in cities and towns, both large and small. Many are asking, “Is it worth the risk?”
Those who support fracking will tell you that the “natural” gas (shale gas) to be extracted is one of the cleanest burning fossil fuels, and that by burning these fuels we may perhaps reduce fossil fuel emissions and vastly improve the general quality of air, thereby slowing global warming.
Shale gas supporters also claim that we as a nation will thus become less dependent upon foreign energy and that there will be more jobs created in an economy that is in desperate need of a boost.
These claims have already been disproven and shown to be little more than “industry hype” designed to advance corporate agendas.
There is mounting evidence of the detrimental effects of fracking on the environment, human health and sociological aspects of communities wherever it has been permitted. According to the website www.catskillmountainkeeper.org, “Over 500 chemicals – many which have been identified as toxic or carcinogenic - are pumped into the ground during fracking procedures.”
The drillers claim they do not use toxic chemicals, only a benign mixture of mud, sand and some guar gum, and the industry continues to refuse to disclose the identity and chemical nature of many of their fracking compounds, claiming them to be “proprietary” products.
However, the evaporation pits where the liquids are contained after drilling prove differently. It has been documented that these liquids can contain heavy metals like arsenic and radioactivity from the shale.
The effects on the environment are irreversible. Fracking chemicals can leech into aquifers and water wells, leading to the contamination of household water supplies. And though water contamination should be of great concern to everyone, the EPA is actually barred from regulating the impact of fracking on groundwater.
Congress, in 2005, exempted fracking from the Clean Water and the Safe Drinking Water Acts. How is it that an agency that should be protecting the environment is actually barred from regulating and testing water that could become contaminated as the result of unsafe industry practices?
It is apparent to everyone that the drilling industry plans were laid well in advance of today, as in 2005 Congress not only exempted the industry from Superfund (environmental cleanup) laws, but also exempted the gas industry from the Clean Air Act.
Beyond the health and environmental concerns, there are negative sociological repercussions in communities being threatened with fracking. Neighbors and families who once concentrated their energies on farming and livestock are now fighting over gas leases and land rights.
The proliferation of “pro-drilling” and “anti-fracking” lawn signs found on roads throughout New York State further pit neighbors against neighbors.
In other parts of the U.S. where fracking is already permitted, there has been an influx of out-of-state drilling workers; strangers who invade communities, deplete resources, overburden the infrastructure, including hospitals and law enforcement, taking the jobs that the locals were promised would be theirs and driving long-term residents from their rental properties.
As recently as last week, there was discussion among the state’s legislators about shipping frack waste products to Long Island for disposal. Frack waste is not only toxic, it’s radioactive. Add to this concern proposals to construct large (30”) pipelines to transport the shale gas to ports for export to foreign lands.
We cannot allow the agendas of profit-seeking corporations to threaten our safety and well being or alter our way of life, whether we live upstate, in the city, or on Long Island. And as a nation we cannot continue to ignore the damage caused by fracking.
The Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy states that “in every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation.” We must all hope for the day when we pick up our newspapers and the front page headlines read, “New York State Bans Hydrofracking!” Then we can be assured that the quest to take care of our seventh generation has begun.
Kelly Abbruzzese is a resident of Middle Village.