The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

SEPTEMBER 16, 2011


Why the urgency for hydrofracking?


A couple of years back, nobody but a few soil hydrologists, oil industry insiders and eco-activists knew anything about hydrofracking, a method of deriving natural gas from shale. The process injects massive volumes of water mixed with chemicals and sand into deep-lying shale to extract natural gas.

The new report, released by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation last week, is the latest in the hydrofracturing legacy. A massive tome more than 900 pages long, the title alone requires study: “Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement in the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program Well Permit Issuance for Horizontal Drilling and High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing to Develop the Marcellus Shale and Other Low-Permeability Gas Reservoirs.” An 800-page draft version of the study released in 2009 drew more than 13,000 comments. The 2011 version includes about 150 more pages of data and analysis than the 2009 report.

While the long-term safety of hydrofracking is far from determined, New York State, lured by the mirage of jobs and tax revenues, appears to be moving toward acceptance of a drilling program, and quick.

The state of Pennsylvania, which has served as the testing ground for drilling for natural gas into shale buried deep underground, has already had its share of side effects from drilling: pollution of wells, contamination of watershed land and streams in the Susquehanna and Delaware river basins, depletion of water supplies, altered waterways and destruction of forest areas.

Additional side effects related to the dangers of drilling include the potential for earthquakes; contamination of New York’s nearly 2,000 miles of reservoir property from undisclosed, industry-secret chemicals; naturally occurring radioactivity at well depths brought to the surface; and most recently, the effects of floodwaters in drilling areas leading to overflow from wastewater storage ponds, contaminating drinking water and farmland, remain speculative, but hold the threat of a widespread environmental disaster.

Over the past year, New York State has quickly come up to speed. Documentaries like “Gasland,” screened before school, environmental and civic groups throughout the state, show the issues before us. The Bedford 2020 Coalition, in particular, with its environmental symposium last year, helped turn attention to the topic, as have thousands of grass-roots activists throughout the state. Legislators like Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assemblyman Bob Castelli, State Senator Greg Ball, County Legislator Peter Harckham and others have kept hydrofracking in the news, presenting forums for discussion and an exchange of ideas.

New York is hoping to learn from Pennsylvania’s mistakes. So far the governor has proposed that high-volume hydraulic fracturing would be prohibited in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, which rely on unfiltered surface reservoirs, including a buffer area around them. Drilling would be prohibited within primary aquifers and within 500 feet of their boundaries, and drilling would be prohibited on state forest land in the Catskills and Adirondacks, but would be allowed under the surface of other forested areas, parks and wildlife management areas owned by the state as well as large tracts of private forest land.

Even with these cautions, details such as long-term storage where underlying bedrock contains seepage routes, filling in drilled areas post-drilling and soil remediation in the case of spills as well as adequate wastewater treatment for contaminated flowback from drilling are only some of the most pressing questions to be answered.

Questions as to the mechanics of the drilling, dangers from the injection of chemicals, well venting and air flow, emissions discharge from the drilling process and “containerization of sewage and putrescible waste and transport” may sound esoteric, but could prove problematic once heavy vehicles start moving this sludge. Noise impacts, the impact of heavy construction traffic on New York’s roads, placement of disposal plants and monitoring of the plants and ongoing water quality analysis all require multi-agency response and will cross municipal boundaries and jurisdictions throughout the state.

Last month a participant in the Katonah library’s hydrofracking forum pointed out costs of $500 million to the state of Arkansas as a consequence of hydrofracking. Other areas have witnessed a devaluation of nearby homes and the deterioration of tourism, agriculture, fishing and recreation. Experts say that production declines are steeper than indicated by the corporations after just one or two years, and the reserves they claim are unsubstantiated. And while an influx of jobs is projected, the question is, what kinds of jobs, and will these jobs be sustaining for a generation? Finally, how will the people of New York benefit from these tax revenues, when potential risks have a far higher price tag?

In October, draft regulations will be issued, and in November, four public hearings will be held on the issue in the Marcellus Shale region, as well as in New York City. This is not enough.

We believe the state needs more time. The idea that the state will be ready to issue permits by early December is absurd. Even the 180-day extension called for by state legislators is not enough considering the potential for high-level risk from an inadequately monitored and potentially unsafe drilling plan.

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The official newspaper of the towns of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

Editorial

NEWSSTAND LOCATIONS

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  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    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

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


Katonah

  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Perks – 197 Katonah Avenue    

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

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

  6. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road


Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    

  2. Connie’s at Northern Westchester Hospital
    400 E. Main Street    


South Salem/Vista

  1. JNR Pharmacy – 222 Oakridge Commons;
    Route 123   


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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