The Dangers of Hydrofracking

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Gas extraction process presents hazard to New Yorkers health

By Daniel O’ Donnell

There are many disturbing facts about the drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing, or “hydrofracking,” all of which point to one clear overarching message: Hydrofracking is simply too dangerous to allow in New York.

In my work as a member of the New York State Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation and a long-time advocate for our environment, I’ve met with advocates, attended hearings, corresponded with regulatory agencies and two governors and questioned the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the natural gas industry regarding the environmental damage and health impacts of hydrofracking found in other states and nations.

In all of the information I’ve received over the years that hydraulic fracturing has been studied and disputed, scientists, legislators and state agencies have found neither proof nor assurance that hydrofracking can be done properly without harm to citizens of New York, our environment and our health.

To obtain natural gas contained in shale rock deep below the earth’s surface, the hydrofracking process uses millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals—many of them toxic or carcinogenic—to blast open the rock and bring the natural gas-hydrofracking fluid combination to the surface. However, a large percentage of this noxious mixture—some reports have said a large majority—remains underground, possibly migrating into nearby water supplies. The fluid that does come to the surface is toxic waste, and there currently exists no method to properly deal with this liquid.

The clearest evidence of this danger came to light very recently. Dec. 8 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a targeted study that stated there is a likely link between contamination of water supplies and nearby hydrofracking activity in Wyoming. This is the first time this connection has been made so directly, but I have no doubt it will not be the last. In an earlier letter to Gov. Cuomo on Nov. 7, I called on the governor to halt the DEC permit process in New York until the EPA had finished its comprehensive study examining the process. I believe the recent development underlines the importance of this study.

The dangers of hydrofracking are indeed grave: compromised water and land, decreased property values, industrial pollution, increased seismic activity and a deterioration of residents’ health due in part to increased levels of known carcinogens.

If hydraulic fracturing is allowed to occur in New York State, it will affect all of us. This issue is not one that is limited to the major cities, which get their fresh water from upstate aquifers, and it is certainly not limited to more rural areas where the drilling will take place. These citizens will face long-lasting damage to their land, their water sources and the industries that support their livelihoods, not to mention their personal health.

This is an issue that all New Yorkers must be concerned about, for our health, our state and future generations. I will continue to fight against hydrofracking as I have in past years to protect our great state from this potentially devastating practice. I encourage all others in our community to do the same.

Daniel O’Donnell is the assembly member for the 69th District, which includes parts of the Upper West Side, Manhattan Valley and Morningside Heights.

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