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Majority favors fracking in state's Marcellus Shale

Rochester Business Journal
December 21, 2012

By a 60-40 ratio, the majority of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll say New York should allow hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale.

Last week the state Department of Environmental Conservation opened a 30-day period for public comment on proposed regulations for high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale. The new comment period—which follows an earlier one that drew tens of thousands of public comments—was required because the DEC sought a rule-making extension to allow a panel of experts to review the state’s study of potential health risks.

Pro-fracking groups have criticized the delay, saying that roughly four years of study by the DEC is sufficient. Anti-fracking groups applauded the move.

Stretching across New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland, the Marcellus Shale is one of the largest shale regions in the United States and is estimated to be the second largest natural gas find in the world. It contains a vast amount of gas—by some estimates, roughly 500 times the natural gas now used in New York each year.

Hydraulic fracturing has made it possible to extract gas deeper than 2,000 feet. Proponents maintain the fracking process is safe, while opponents argue that the risk of contaminating watersheds is high.

This week, Norway’s biggest oil and gas producer, Statoil ASA, bought the rights to 70,000 acres in the Marcellus Shale area in West Virginia and Ohio for $590 million.

Roughly 950 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Dec. 17 and 18.

Should New York allow use of hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale?
Yes: 60%
No: 40%

COMMENTS:

We perform millions of dollars of work in Pennsylvania on various hydrofracking projects. I can assure you that the economic impact for New York State once approved will be staggering from a positive standpoint.
—Victor E. Salerno, CEO, O’Connell Electric Co. Inc.

In view of the sad state of the state’s financial picture and the number of social and free lunch programs New York State is handing out, allowing production in the Marcellus Shale could be the source of some meaningful revenue to balance out the ever-increasing expenses. This is a whole lot better than to keep turning to the taxpayers for money.
—Patrick Ho

The Great Lakes region (along with New York State) is one of the largest sources of freshwater in the world. It is a known fact that clean drinking water will soon be a commodity of great value. Do we want to risk that for short-term gains? Although fracking can be done without chemicals, it is not the method currently used. We are stewards of this Earth; our children and grandchildren will reap the benefits or damage we create by our decisions today.
—Chris Long, the University of Rochester

I may be going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing that the anti-frackers would be happy to agree to allow it after the idea has been tossed around for a few hundred years. The pro-frackers want to get this stuff out of the ground and sold before the drillers in Pennsylvania steal all the gas from under us. Did anybody see “There Will Be Blood”? It’s going to get drilled; let’s ensure it is done safely.
—Bill Lanigan

The “fast fix” is not always the best. Such is the case with our energy future. Natural gas is doomed to be a boom-and-bust event. Developing renewable energy and implementing energy conservation is the slow and steady route to sustainability—for energy and the general economy.
—Bill LaBine, energy specialist, Airtight Service

Absolutely not! The risks—present and future—are not known. And to destroy the land—that is a known fact—is not worth that risk. I wish these energy companies would spend their vast sums of money on clean energy and alternative energies.
—Leslie Apetz

Responsible hydrofracking is as safe or safer than mega landfills and more traditional gas and oil wells.
—David Scudder, retired

The industry uses propaganda to promote fracking in pursuit of profits. Environmental destruction cannot be reversed, even if the companies agree to share some financial responsibility for attempting to remedy it.
—Lola Kelly

We need home-grown energy. This is a no-brainer!
—George Thomas, Ogden

The gas isn’t going anywhere, so let’s see how other states are impacted both environmentally and economically before we move forward.
—Lewis F. Montemaggi, Montemaggi & Associates LLC

Any damage done by this process is forever. We cannot reverse the environmental impact of this hydraulic fracturing.
—Kim Pandina, Panda Wear

Since 1949, thousands of oil and gas wells have been drilled using hydrofracking with not one single instance of water contamination (other than two by the EPA, which both involved questionable or even outright fraudulent data). A peer-reviewed study by researchers at the University of Texas that was published earlier this year found “no direct evidence that fracking itself has contaminated groundwater.” How many more studies does the DEC need? By the time they are done kicking the can down the road, Pennsylvania will have extracted all the gas!
—John Woodman

Evidence from other states shows the horrendous health impact of hydrofracturing. The governor is not allowing time to examine this information and has set up a sham process that appears to be illegal.
—Joyce Herman

I feel the hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale would be a financial boon to New York State, and the Southern Tier in particular. It is my opinion that, with proper oversight, it could be done without adverse environmental impact.
—Joe Cameron, Cameron Computers Inc.

There are many reasons that I applaud the DEC and Gov. Cuomo for proceeding slowly. I am worried about the safety of our water, agriculture and air. I am also against scarring the land of our beautiful state. So much of our livelihood is dependent on tourism. Fracturing would be particularly detrimental to this sector, as it would change the character of our state from  beautiful and pristine to industrial and dirty. I suggest that people do their homework. See what people who live in areas where fracturing has been done have to say. See the movie "Gasland.” A particularly good website is nofracking.com. It contains a particularly good video, which was partially funded by an EPA grant. It’s very informative: "What You Need to Know About Natural Gas Production” I believe the state should follow in the footsteps of Vermont and ban fracking.
—Lou Ann Owens

Fracking may well be the greatest technological invention of our century. New York should resoundingly support the recovery of oil and natural gas to power our nation’s recovery.
—Ron Siemens

Only in New York State could reasons be manufactured for not developing a resource which has led to economic resurgence in several states already, especially given that the Southern Tier has been suffering for so many years.
—George Dounce

Opposition to drilling seems to be driven by an almost irrational belief it will destroy the planet. In fact, it is done all over the world with virtually no problems, the claims made in movies like “Gasland” have been proven false and natural gas is the most environmentally friendly way to produce large amounts of electricity. It’s time to tell the fanatics to get a grip on reality and start drilling.
—Bob Sarbane

The town of Canadice is unique in New York; it has three Finger Lakes. Two of those lakes are a water source for Rochester and Monroe County. It would be sheer insanity to risk this natural resource for fracking, and it would destroy an extraordinary rural community.
—Brian Kane

Fracturing, if correctly completed, has no danger. Vertical fracturing has been the normal for years.
—John L. Sackett Jr., Sackett Farms

Frack water has a very low concentration of toxic elements. We have the technology to clean frack water before we dispose of it. With appropriate DEC oversight fracking could be done safely in New York.
—Bill Pollock

My "yes" vote is conditional. If the proponents are so sure it is safe, then there should be no problem for those engaging in this drilling to provide full indemnification to the State and citizens damaged in terms of health or property loss.
—Nathan J. Robfogel

We should be striving to take advantage of all domestic forms of energy. The so-called environmental groups opposing hydraulic fracturing of the Marcellus Shale offer no alternative sources of energy except windmills and cost-prohibitive solar projects. I do not know from where these environmental groups come from, but it must be some utopia where energy is free and clean. In fact, many of these groups are from the New York City area and are the same groups who urge the use of mass transit; a good idea in New York City but outside of New York City, it's just not going to happen since the infrastructure does not exist. North and west of New York City, there just aren't any vast mass transit systems as they have in New York City. But still, they want everyone to use mass transit as a way to save energy. Meanwhile we possess vast amounts of natural gas that could be exploited safely and cheaply. Hydrofracking has been around since about 1947. Unfortunately, the strategy of the environmental groups is to interfere with the issuance of permits and increasing the cost of the process through study after study. Worse, when the studies do not back up their claims—as they have—they demand more studies. All these studies come at taxpayer expense. The cost to those who do the actual drilling increases by the uncertainty of whether the resource can be exploited and by their having to waste their capital by the constant requirements to prove the safety and minimal impact the process imposes upon the environment. We need to exploit the recovery of energy assets. By failing to do so, all we will realize are increased costs of energy and the increased reliance upon foreign sources of the energy we require. Perhaps the greatest harm the environmentalists cause is that we cannot take advantage of clean natural gas. It's amazing how far and how harmful misinformation can be.
—Michael F. Kloppel, chairman, Ontario County Conservative Party, Canandaigua

What is 30 more days after four years? It's not like the gas is going anywhere soon.
—Ian Cunningham

Our drinking water is as stake.
—Rhonda Hudgins

The more than four and a half year delay to date is unconscionable. New York gives new meaning to the phrase "paralysis by analysis." Hydraulic fracturing is the wave of the future and critical to U.S. energy independence and Upstate New York solvency.
—Ken Kamlet, Hinman, Howard & Kattell, LLP

Sorry folks, there is no amount of job or business creation that can justify damaging the environment and poisoning ground water and drinking-water aquifers, to say nothing of hydrofracking's voracious appetite for fresh water, an increasingly-scarce natural resource.
—Christopher Burns, marketing strategy consultant

I think we should allow the fracking process to take place. I also think that the most stringent practices should be implemented with triple redundancy verification of proper practices and safety measures put in place. The mission should be twofold; first to preserve and protect the largest concentration of fresh water on the planet and second to extract the gas. We have the technology and the intelligence to pull this off, but we need to use both. The politicians are drooling over the potential tax bonanza, the gas companies are drooling over the potential profits, the citizens are excited about jobs and the environmentalists have a new cause to trigger fund raising. It never isn't about money. Our priority should be to do this in such a way as to absolutely protect the environment and share in the bounty by giving energy credits to New York State residents and businesses. Much like Alaska. How much money do we save on energy because of the great natural resources like the Genesee River and Niagara Falls being right in our own backyard? You could thank your politicians for that. But I realize that they're busy spending money on, and tackling the tough issues like the downtown crow blight!
—Lou Romano

Fracking should be restricted to areas at least more than half a mile from water sources.
—Mike Bleeg, Strategic Results

New York State needs jobs. With some oversight, it appears that this can be done safely and protect the environment. We need to do what is right for New York and New Yorkers. Jobs and economic growth should be our highest priority and for years now, it not been our focus.
—Peter Caines

The very fact that the gas industry is exempted from the federal clean air and water act is an indication there is no means to clean the waste from the fracking process. In my own research, I have not found any methods for the successful treatment of wastewater from fracking. This coupled with the unavoidable damage to the surrounding roads and other stress on the local infrastructure makes fracking very unattractive - especially in the Finger Lakes Region.
—Dyke Smith, Dyke Smith and Associates

Absolutely not! Everyone who thinks hydrofracking is a good thing and will allow many of us to prosper in some way should read the December issue of National Geographic. Their article on this subject points out many of the things gone wrong with this process and how it has affected some residents in the area. The picture of the woman running her contaminated tap water in the kitchen while lighting the methane gas coming out at the same time is an icon for no hydrofracking. She now has to be supplied bottled water from the gas company and keep three windows open 24/7 in fear of her house blowing up. She was getting $1,000 a month when they first drilled on her land and now since the well is not producing as much anymore she gets $100 a month. Reality has set in for her but too late to save her home. These companies promise big things, jobs, money and a clean environment, but all it takes is one thing to go wrong and our groundwater gets contaminated. How many homes or businesses should they contaminate before they cross the line justifying this process? We depend on clean water in our state. Too many businesses would go out of business if we lost our Finger Lakes to contamination. It should not be about money or jobs. It should be about preserving the quality of life in our state.
—Grant Osman

Fracking brings jobs. Fracking works safely elsewhere. When one drills deep enough, one can find opposition to anything.
—Bob Miglioratti

This shouldn't be a yes or no question. The answer is that it depends upon a lot of factors, such as the hydrological characteristics of the area, the chemicals that are being used, transportation issues, the waste water remediation plans and other safeguards. If you force me into a false, "all-or-none" decision, no has to be my answer.
—Lawrence Jones

It is critical that the United States becomes energy independent. The use of this country’s natural gas reserves is a critical part of reaching independence. Properly regulated hydraulic fracturing is the path that we need to follow in addition to the further development of solar and wind technologies.
—Michael J. Lebowitz, real estate broker

Absolutely, this is a no brainer. We need energy independence despite what the Obama administration and the EPA practices. This is would be such a boon for N.Y. Just look at what it did for Williamsport, Pa.
—Joe Dattilo

It has been said that "New York State never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity." For a change, let’s not miss this one. The technology is safe. We need the revenue, We need the higher-paying jobs. Our country needs to be energy independent. Let’s get on with it.
—Bob Worden, Penn Yan

Multiple states and countries have been safely extracting natural gas using the hydraulic fracturing process for years. Allowing hydrofracking would very likely create thousands of jobs and raise millions of dollars in state and local tax revenue. What's the hold up?
—Doug Lyon, Lyon Capital Management

I believe we should allow the capture of the gas in this manner under some conditions. 1. Drilling should be done by an approved method with inspections and tests to ensure public and environmental health and safety. Regulators should inspect all operations and review all reports. 2. The containment and handling of all waste materials must be regulated to protect safety and the environment. Again, sampling and inspections need to be carried out. 3. Environmental damage caused by access to sites or drilling must be mediated in an acceptable fashion and inspected. 4. Any violation, accident, damage to water, people, or environment shall result in an immediate cessation of all similar activities throughout the state. Resumption may only occur after successful verified corrective action and remediation at all sites. We should be able to let the science and technology of the process work to create the energy and jobs we need. But it must be based on sound science and not speculation. It also has to carry with it severe penalties in case of neglect.
—Bob Stein

I personally haven't read enough about it yet. I never even knew that Cornell was polluting Cayuga Lake until reading the RBJ yesterday.
—Daniel Mossien, architect

New York State should set the standard on how to safely and with environmentally sound principles, tap into this rich resource. If it is not done carefully and with the highest standards of environment monitoring, monitoring by the DEC and paid for (emphasis here) by the extraction companies, then it should not be allowed. Companies who are awarded contracts should be vetted with the utmost scrutiny and stringent environmental practices, clearly defined penalties for the officers of the company, and a clearly defined strategy for compensating NYS for the monitoring process should be written into their contracts, otherwise forget it.
—Greg Reynolds, East Rochester

The lives of our children are worth more than the cost of fuel.
—Ken Maher

Why should Pennsylvania and Ohio have all the fracking fun!
—Peter Short, Pittsford

New York is missing out on a huge opportunity to bring much needed jobs and money into this state - especially to upstate where it is needed the most. While New York declares one delay after another, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other fracking-friendly states have reaped the benefits of higher natural gas prices. Even if we start now, the benefits are already diminished, but better late than never. The gas companies have the experience and technical knowledge to do this safely. Let's get fracking NOW—no more delays!
—David Wagner

Hydrofracking causes many costs for decades after the wells are drilled. In the case of New York, we risk our clean water, our vineyards and property values. The Finger Lakes tourism, we have spent 50 years building on to be named one of the Best 10 Places to Visit in the World, would be trashed!
—Art Maurer

Show how it has not contaminated groundwater not intended to be used for the process. Show how it hasn't directly or indirectly caused earthquakes. Show how the contaminated water is being recycled for the same process or purified for drinking uses. This smells too much like "oil money" to me—some big company sucking resources out of the ground, not a hoot of care about the environment until the damage is done/too late, and a big clean up needed after they have left and "gone bankrupt.”
—Kathy Keady

Fracking should terrify anyone who understands the priceless and irreplaceable asset represented by clean, clear, healthy drinking water. Huge portions of this world will forever be impoverished or uninhabitable because they lack what we are fortunate enough to have in abundance here. We must never take our pure groundwater resource for granted, nor do anything that can jeopardize its quality or quantity. People need to understand that watersheds and aquifers are huge, and that fracking done in one place can destroy the water of communities many, many miles away. Don't think for a minute that just because fracking is done in some little town you never heard of that its impact won't threaten your own well-being. Anyone who values our Finger Lakes, as just one example, should be losing sleep about fracking in the Marcellus Shale. Perhaps in the future, given more time to develop, test, and prove the safety of the fracking process— to absolutely ensure against the contamination of its chemically poisonous wastewater byproducts that now have no safe repository—we'll be able to responsibly and safely tap the natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale. Job creation and reducing our dependence on foreign oil are both noble goals. But we're not nearly there yet, and the current fracking processes are today still far too risky and dangerous. The answer to this question may not be "never", but it's clearly "not yet.”
—Jocelyn Goldberg-Schaible, president, Rochester Research Group

We cannot jeopardize our gift of the natural resource, pure water. Potable water is becoming more scarce by the hour. Finding alternative ways to access the natural gas is a consideration as well as alternative energy sources and less use of energy altogether.
—Carolyn Gray

Contrary to the well-financed advertising, fracking is not safe! I've seen enough documentaries, photos, and enough first-person stories of sick children, dead cattle, poisoned wells, streams bubbling with methane, pad explosions, and burst pipelines to know that these are not rare occurrences. Tapping into gas pockets (the old-fashioned way) was one thing, but the high pressure fracturing of the bedrock beneath your feet, injecting millions upon millions of gallon of our precious water riddled with toxic, carcinogenic chemicals is FOLLY! Please, everyone, come to your senses and defend our water, air, and earth from this unnecessary and polluting practice. We are better than this—support renewable alternatives.
—Margie Campaigne, Ignite Inc.

With proper state oversight.
—Stanley Hilt

The environmental hazards of hydraulic fracking are well established by now. Fracking disasters have a high capacity to permanently damage water aquifers, both above and below ground. The natural gas down there is going nowhere. Waiting until we have better methods of extracting it with more safety and oversight only makes sense. Greed should not override local concerns or environmental risks.
—Lee Drake

If you are against this, you really aren't very sharp. P.S.: Nice picture … guess it's worth a 1,000 words. Particularly when you are trying to paint a negative image.
—Marcus Klausen, Chili

There are billions of dollars in the ground. They are not going to stay there. It makes me laugh out loud every time I hear the ads on TV claiming "if [the oil company] can't do it right, we won't do it at all." Yeah, right, we can depend on them to protect our water and environmental resources. For those that prioritize environmental protection and are dismayed by another wholesale investment in the fossil fuel paradigm, I say again: there are billions of dollars in the ground, they are not going to stay there. Best result we can hope for is a strong regulatory and environmental protection umbrella that will allow us to bring civil suits and penalties when the inevitable occurs and we have to mitigate water table contamination for the many, many people in the southern tier that will sacrifice their water for cheap fossil fuel.
—Lance Guglin, Performance Technologies

I don't know if NY should allow hydraulic fracturing in our state. Isn't it time that our government released a scientific study to tell us that fracturing is either safe or it is not or to tell us under what conditions it is safe? If anyone remembers the ‘60s, the surgeon general produced a definitive scientific study on cigarette smoke. From that report the public had a study that could be trusted and millions of people stopped smoking. Energy independence is at stake. The public in the present time needs scientific information to make an informed decision.
—Jay Birnbaum

It's the economy stupid!
—Michael O'Toole, general manager, GESNY Inc.

I am always struck by the sad faces I see when I am at Tim Horton’s and see middle aged people who use to be engineers who are now at the drive through or wiping tables. Bad policy put them there. They lost their other jobs to bad policy and more bad policy has prevented them from getting another one in addition to preventing the people of New York from reaping the benefits of our natural resources the way Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio has. Without polluting its water. It would be nice to see middle-aged professionals working high-paying jobs instead of wiping tables and picking up trash at Tim Horton’s, further those service industry jobs could go to all the out of work high school and college students. Clean locally produced energy and high-paying jobs. Who wants that?
—Karl Schuler

Fracturing would be an economic boom for New York (and the country as it is occurring elsewhere) and if the Obama administration, EPA and Gov. Cuomo would get out of the way energy and more economic independence would occur. Having said that, companies that do this important work need to be subject to and follow very specific environmental guidelines.
—Mike Kaser, Penfield

I think it just makes good economic sense to use hydraulic fracturing in NYS. My only concern is for the airborne pollution that seems to occur in other parts of the country where this drilling technique is used. Initially I was concerned about the water pollution, but that seems to be well covered in the NYS regulations.
—Al Schnucker, Schnucker Packaging Inc.

The gas in the Marcellus Shale will wait for us to figure out safe ways to extract it. Hydrofracking puts our fresh water reserves at risk, and no one knows how to clean an aquifer. We can develop alternative energy, but no one can develop alternative water.
—Kate Kressmann-Kehoe

One of Upstate New York's greatest resources is our supply of fresh water. Through Lake Ontario, we have we have access to are the single largest system of freshwater in the world. The Finger Lakes are an amazing tourist destination and increasingly renowned for their wine production. When tracking goes "well," freshwater is polluted with chemicals and pumped into the ground. When it goes badly, who knows the level of damage it could cause. Finally, if fracking isn't good enough to do near NYC's watershed, why should it be allowed in the vicinity of Upstate New York residents' water? Think logically; think historically. There is no way an environmental onslaught like this will be perfectly foolproof. Let's not frack up the best resources we have.
—Katie Orem, MPH Geriatrics and Palliative Care Program Manager, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield

Absolutely! High-volume hydraulic fracturing has been done safely for more than 40 years. In all the debate that's raging, I have NEVER heard of (a good) example of where fracking has caused serious damage. Frankly, there's has been more from offshore oil drilling. Frack away, please!
—Steve Wichtowski, Honeoye

12/21/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


What You're Saying 

michael thornton at 4:21:26 PM on 12/21/2012
The majority of respondents are clueless to the dangers and ignore the cost to landscape, roads, bridges, groundwater, 24-hour noise pollution and adverse health effects. Ignorance may be bliss, but it shouldn't be the method by which a environmentally and human-health dange...  Read More >
William Lloyd at 4:29:00 PM on 12/21/2012
As a major agricultural landowner in Livingston County, and one who is eager to see New York's economy grow, I am all for national energy independence and job growth. However, I do not like this current technology. High Volume Horizontal Fracturing is NOT the traditional v...  Read More >
Eric Ryan at 2:00:52 PM on 1/2/2013
Interesting. I tend to side with those that think the proper amount of time should be taken, regardless of how long that is. you cannot rush the set up of safe practices, nor should you. the gas isn't going anywhere, make sure that you are going to be safe about it! shalestu...  Read More >

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