Drilling in upstate shale may do more harm than good

By Bob Harris

While the use of solar panels and wind to cleanly produce energy slowly grows, some people want to quickly fracture the shale in upstate New York with a mix of toxic chemicals to free shale gas as a source of energy.

People in communities sitting above the huge Marcellus Shale formations are passing ordinances to stop hydrofracking, which they think will release methane gas into the air and their water supplies. The toxic mix of chemicals that breaks up the shale to release natural gas can flow for miles and miles and pollute their water. The chemicals which are pumped out of the ground have to be stored in huge ponds, from which leakage can be disastrous.

Many upstate New Yorkers do not want heavy truck traffic and thousands of workers and air pollution. They argue that they live in rural New York because they want a rural atmosphere. Then there are people who want the thousands of dollars gas companies will pay them to drill wells on their land. Some government officials salivate at the money, which can be made from the gas produced.

Many of us in the New York City area are concerned that the toxic chemicals pumped into the ground upstate will flow underground into the watershed, which feeds water to us. New York City has bought thousands of miles of land upstate and works to keep farming or rural development from polluting our upstate watershed. This new industry could easily contaminate our own drinking water in New York City.

For five years various agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Health, have been studying what might happen if drilling in the Marcellus Shale formations takes place. This shale formation extends into Pennsylvania and that state has permitted drilling.

During the past few years, I have read articles condemning and applauding the drilling in Pennsylvania. Some people tell of methane gas coming out of their water faucets and catching on fire. Other articles tell of people’s wells becoming polluted and them having to spend the money received for the drilling to truck in clean water for their farm animals and themselves to drink.

A recent article read that a study in Texas, sponsored by petroleum companies, concluded that “less methane was released by fracking than the EPA has estimated.” Sounds good until you question how much methane is actually being released into the atmosphere. How dangerous is this? Then later in the report there was a statement that more gas was released into the atmosphere in other areas of the fracking process. The question arises as to whether the leakage of methane into the atmosphere outweighs the burning of clean natural gas.

New York state will have to decide whether to permit hydrofracking near our water supply upstate and gain some money for the state or be cautious. While this evaluation is going on, I see more solar panels around, green roofs of all kinds with crops growing on them, electricity powered cars, roofs being painted white to reflect heat, wind farms and hybrid cars. Then there is energy conservation and biofuels. I have seen full-page ads taken out by civic associations in Queens against hydrofracking.

GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK: Last month I read an article which said that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of three drugs, which contained arsenic, from animal feed. The drug companies had agreed to this ban after the FDA had found high levels of arsenic in chicken livers.

These drugs had been used to prevent diseases in pigs, turkeys and chickens. They are no longer used. Just think: Some people want less government activities like this?

BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: A recent article told of 16 owners of charter school groups who were being paid from $219,000 to $499,000 a year yet the city schools chancellor earns only $212,614 a year.