Rallies have occurred in front of the Governor’s Mansion, around Albany, and across the state. Some lawmakers have worked tirelessly to assuage fears and cajole constituents, while others have spoken up about the deficit of scientific data and the lack of enthusiasm from citizens. And celebrities have found a new cause to throw their support, voices and faces behind.
Despite the protests and célèbre, it seems that hydrofracturing is here to stay in New York. It has been reported that the state is set to issue guidelines for the controversial drilling procedure after Labor Day. New York has stood as an example of the power that citizens have to delay, and perhaps even halt, this method of drilling that involves a highly pressurized mixture of sand, water and unknown chemicals. States like North Dakota and Texas have embraced hydrofracturing as a means to obtain previously inaccessible natural gas deep below the Earth’s surface, but the disclosure of chemicals has remained elusive. It is only within the last year that Texas instated disclosure regulations. Across the border from New York, hydrofracturing is occurring in rural Pennsylvania.
Even after a disaster at one of the drill pads last year, New York State officials continued to tout hydrofracturing as clean and risk-free energy. This is where the situation gets more difficult: While there is little evidence to prove hydrofracturing is clean and risk-free, it is equally hard to find data to firmly prove that hydrofracturing poses health or environmental risks. The EPA study conducted in Wyoming is one of the few studies on the effects of hydrofracturing on the environment, but the results only seem to have fueled the fire between supporters and opponents of fracking.
Officials at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have stated that high-volume hydrofracturing will only be permitting in New York under standards and regulations that are the strictest in the nation. The plan sounds innocuous enough: only the deepest sections of the Marcellus Shale (the underground rock formation that is “fractured” to release the natural gas) will be drilled and drilling in towns and historic districts will be banned. Various towns and villages across New York have already instituted local hydrofracturing bans, and bans on drilling near the Syracuse or New York City watersheds will remain intact. Gov. Cuomo’s plan will allow limited drilling in the counties bordering Pennsylvania and will only allow the drilling to occur if the communities are supportive. But there is no indication as to when permitting would begin or new wells would be drilled.
Reform Jewish Voice of New York State submitted comments to the NYSDEC on the draft environmental impact statement urging the state to continue the moratorium on new wells until lingering questions on the impact of hydrofracturing on clean water, clean air and the health of citizens can be conclusively answered. Gov. Cuomo has said, “Let’s get the facts. Let the science and the facts make the decision, not emotion and not politics.” Unfortunately, it seems as though this decision has been without the science and the facts. While acknowledging the urgent need for alternative energy sources to curb our dependence on fossil fuels, RJV continues to oppose hydrofracturing in New York until it is first proven safe and a clear and complete evaluation of the societal and environmental damage is concluded. We can only hope state officials recognize the same urgent need for further study, regardless of the new plan to begin permitting drilling.