JULY 26, 2013

Gasland, New York

Just because protesters aren’t standing on the steps of local town halls holding signs doesn’t mean that the process known as fracking isn’t one of the top issues facing New Yorkers — or Americans in general.

A look at HBO’s “Gasland 2,” the second film on the topic of fracking by documentary filmmaker John Fox, presents a frightening picture of the potential destruction caused by the drilling process. We already see it with water contamination and air quality risks for miles around in areas where the process is underway, now in 36 states and growing.

To understand some of the unintended consequences, all you have to do is see the Texas homeowner puts a match to his garden hose and watch as it flames up like a blowtorch. “You’ve got no private property rights, not in Texas at least,” says another homeowner, whose well was contaminated by gas from fracking. Similar stories are told in Wyoming and Pennsylvania, with lab reports showing boron, magnesium, strontium, benzene and methane among the contaminants in their water supply.

While the EPA has stepped in, trying to stop the migration of the natural gas into drinking water, politicians on both sides of the aisle continue to promote the drilling process. Families tell the story of health problems such as risks to skin, chemicals in body tissue — including organs and lungs — neurological damage and miscarriages. Five percent of wells can fail, says an expert, which can contaminate an entire community’s aquifer.

Even statistics provided by industry sources say there is between a 6 and 9 percent accident rate for new wells. In quake-prone areas of California, in Oklahoma, Texas and even Ohio, where fracking is now underway, seismologists describe an increase in earth tremors and quakes where disposal wells are “triggering” the earthquakes when the gas makes its way to fault lines. “We do have many cases where we believe we see groundwater and drinking water contamination that, if not brought on entirely by natural gas production, were exacerbated by it,” says EPA administrator Lisa Jackson.

New Yorkers have two advantages over some of the other states: one, the experience of others as an object lesson; and two, politicians and a public relatively educated on this complex issue. Even with the obscure industrial process, classified documents and lack of transparency, along with the millions of dollars of corporate funds to promote drilling, the public is still dubious, especially in a state that has labored so intensely to protect and develop its magnificent fresh water reservoir system.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation filed a notice of continuation with the Department of State to extend the review process to give the state’s commissioner of health, Dr. Nirav Shah, time to complete his review of the draft supplemental generic environmental impact statement.

That determination will be based on the findings of the environmental impact statement and Dr. Shah’s public health review of that document. The DEC will not take any final action or make any decision regarding hydraulic fracturing until after Dr. Shah’s health review is completed and the DEC, through the environmental impact statement, is satisfied that this activity can be done safely in New York State. If the DEC decides that hydraulic fracturing cannot be safely done in New York, these regulations will not have any practical effect and the process will not go forward.

If the DEC decides the process can be performed safely, the regulations will be adjusted in accordance with the health and safety requirements and issues addressed in the supplemental generic environmental impact statement.

Last week in a phone interview, New York State Assemblyman David Buchwald said that the hydrofracking decision remains in the hands of the governor’s office. While the Assembly passed a bill that would have extended the moratorium by two years and required a health assessment by one of the SUNY universities on the effects of hydrofracking, the State Senate did not act on that bill, said Mr. Buchwald.

“I think it’s important to take the time they need to do the review that is most appropriate for New Yorkers’ health,” Mr. Buchwald said. “Everything does still relate to the effects that this activity has, not just on the immediate property where it is occurring but the effects that is has more broadly, both in potential impacts on the water table and, for instance, from the waste that comes from hydrofracking. There are lots of impacts of hydrofracking, not just on the property it occurs.”

All this may make the health commissioner, Dr. Shah, one of the most powerful men in New York State. Gov. Cuomo has told reporters he will let “science, not emotion,” guide his decision. He has indicated that he may make a decision before the 2014 election. We are confident that sound science will endorse an extended moratorium on hydrofracture drilling in New York state.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

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  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    

Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

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Bedford Hills

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  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road

Mount Kisco

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Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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