In a long-awaited report issued last Thursday, the federal Environmental Protection Agency said it had found no evidence that high-volume hydraulic fracturing has caused widespread harm to drinking water in the United States.
The plurality of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll—46 percent—say the report has no impact on their opinion of whether high-volume fracking can be done safely. But 42 percent say it makes them more confident, compared with 13 percent who say they’re now less confident.
A slim majority—51 percent to 49 percent—disagrees with the decision to ban high-volume fracking in New York.
The draft EPA study said researchers found instances where spills of hydraulic fracturing fluid or faulty wastewater management affected drinking water, but “the number of identified cases where drinking water resources were impacted are small relative to the number of hydraulically fractured wells.”
An estimated 25,000 to 30,000 new wells were drilled annually from 2011 to 2014, the EPA found.
In response to the EPA report, fracking proponents called for the state Department of Environmental Conservation to rescind New York’s ban. Opponents, however, maintained the EPA study confirms fracking pollutes drinking water.
In December, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s environmental commissioner, Joe Martens, said he would ban high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York. His announcement followed completion of a review of potential health risks related to fracking. In effect, a prohibition on fracking in New York has existed since the review began seven years ago.
Last month, the DEC released its Final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement. Martens still must issue a “findings statement,” which is expected to state that New York will deny any applications for high-volume hydraulic fracturing.
RBJ readers’ opinions have shifted slightly from last December, when a majority of Snap Poll respondents—by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent—disagreed with the decision to ban high-volume fracking in the state.
Roughly 500 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted June 8 and 9.
Does the new EPA report make you more confident or less confident that high-volume fracking can be done safely?
More confident 42%
Less confident 13%
No change in my opinion 46%
Do you agree or disagree with the decision to ban high-volume fracking in New York?
If New York State is waiting until “fracking” is a 100 percent absolute and that there is no risk whatsoever, then our wait will continue and yet another opportunity for New York State will be missed. Our fine government at work building a better New York.
—Tim O’Brien, Randstad Technologies
Potential impact on drinking water is only one aspect. Truck traffic ruins towns and roadways, and the pad sites and ancillary sites are a deplorable mess.
—Barbara Diehl, Victor
A telling test would be the willingness of fracking firms provide full indemnification, which they should be willing to do if they think it is so safe.
We’re supposed to be happy with just a small number of contaminated drinking water resources? No number is acceptable, in my opinion. Read the June 9, 2015, Wall Street Journal article about the high number of earthquakes in Texas due to injection wells of waste water from fracking. We don’t need contaminated drinking water resources and earthquakes in our state. I applaud the fracking ban.
—Melodye Campbell, Keuka College
Compare the alternative of fighting in the Middle East to control oil fields, and you tell me which is safer.
To aid in understanding the effects of fracking, I would like to see what a production site looks like. Based on the waste sludge lorries seen on Route 15 in the northern Pennsylvania shale region, I imagine the sites themselves appear as environmental waste pits. As far as I know, the industry works hard to prevent visitors from observing oil fields in operation. There must be a reason.
—Dorver Kendig, Webster
This was a poorly done study, but it does show some of the harmful effects of fracking on the environment.
This science has now been proven. The state needs revenue and jobs. The federal government is already spending huge sums for alternative sources of energy with very little return. We need fracking (among others) to keep us going until those alternative sources prove that science.
The EPA has let the U.S. down yet again and once again sided with the destructive fossil fuel industry to the detriment of our nation and our people.
The report does not look at the longer-term effect of the breakdown of the concrete well liners that lead to chemical infiltration of the water supply.
Maybe allowing fracking in New York State would help us solve our poverty problem.
—Doug Lyon, Lyon Capital Management
To paraphrase a young vet who ran for Congress a few years ago, the gas is not going anywhere (is it?). Once entrepreneurs perfect a clean way to extract it, New York State property owners and workers will clean up!
We are tampering with something that we shouldn’t be, and if we continue to move in the direction of fracking, we will cause irreversible harm to our natural resources. We have a significant amount of the planet’s fresh water supply right here in our own backyard and once we introduce chemicals and pollutants to that water, the damage is done and cannot be reversed. Maybe fracking is safe until an accident occurs, but then it is too late and we are talking about an impact of environmentally catastrophic proportions. Shipping oil via a tanker is safe until an accident occurs (Exxon Valdez); nuclear energy is safe until an accident occurs (Chernobyl); and chemicals are safe until someone isn’t paying attention (Love Canal and many others). If it takes this much effort and discussion just to get to the gas, maybe that should tell us all we need to know.
What we have now is arrogant New York City interests dooming the Southern Tier to perpetual poverty in order to advance a particular political agenda. It’s only necessary to drive through Hornell then drive through Williamsport, Pa., to see the difference. Thirty years of fracking have resulted in no environmental disasters. Perhaps the governor is concerned that with corrupt state officials overseeing the project, an environmental problem could occur.
Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, home of the first commercial oil well, I have an acute awareness of oil production, short- and long-term pollution and the consequences to a community. In the 1950s to ’60s, most farms and land around Titusville, Pa., were home to wells, pumping stations and old wooden storage tanks to hold the crude until picked up in tanker trucks for delivery to refineries. South of Titusville and north of Oil City, Pa., the refineries for Penzoil, Quaker State and Wolf’s Head lined the banks of the Allegheny River. Oil was drilled for, transported and stored with what would be considered by today’s standards to be completely unacceptable methods and technology. Nature itself was a pollutant. Oil Creek, a small stream / river as a contributor to the Allegheny River would have oil on its’ surface not from human pollution but from natural seepage of underground oil making it to the surface. At the edge of hayfields in wooded areas, the old wooden storage tanks and some of the newer metal one’s seeped oil. Most tanks were surrounded by a man-made earthen barrier to contain this seepage and should a tank rupture or catch fire, to contain the spillage or flames. Was there pollution? Yes. Did it damage crops or affect drinking water, not that I am aware of, and most of the family farms or communities were adjacent to these operations. Was it an economic benefit to the communities? Yes. Mineral rights sold by landowners supplemented the incomes of most farms and in the case of the business community, it was an asset. My mother’s maiden name was Tarr. Many of her relatives were investors in a chain of gas stations working under the name of “SKAT.” The “T” in “SKAT” was one of her uncle’s. The bottom line, the pollution was frankly extensive, but a trip to Pennsylvania is not like visiting Mexico. You can drink the water and enjoy beautiful vistas comparable to our region. With the Appalachian Mountains, the region is incredibly beautiful. The economic impact over the decades is both positive and extensive. I would invite you to visit Warren, Pa. home to United Refining operators of the Kwik-Fill stores as an example. You will find the Warren area with a refinery in the middle of the city, thriving as it has over the past decades. To a lesser extent, a visit to Titusville will expose you to beautiful mansions rivaling our own Eastman House. The McKinney mansion is now part of the University of Pittsburgh campus in Titusville. A visit to the Drake Well Museum and park will show the history of the area and will show how early technology or lack thereof created the pollution that are the concerns of today. New drilling methods, transportation technology and modern science create the conditions for gas and oil production to be considerably more environmentally friendly. We should not allow the mistakes of the past to curtail our future. Fracking and energy production in all forms regulated and using modern methods should allow for economic growth and vitality in New York State.
—Bob Scott, Bob Scott Productions Inc.
Why spend all that money and time risking our water through fracking and all its ancillary activities when we could be focusing that time and money on renewables? American engineers and entrepreneurs have amazing ingenuity. Given the opportunity, they will figure out how to economically deliver clean energy to market.
—Anna Sears, R-CAUSE (Rochesterians Concerned About Unsafe Shale-gas Extraction)
We need to do more to support sustainable energy sources, shifting government support away from fossil fuels to these low-carbon footprint alternatives. And we need to start rising above political barriers fomented by the fossil fuel industry, and address global climate change immediately. We only have a few years to do this, as the Arctic methane hydrate beds are beginning to thaw, releasing huge reserves of methane directly into the atmosphere, 180 times more potent (in the beginning of its lifetime) than CO2 (see YouTube). One easy and very effective way to address climate change is to begin wide-spread agricultural carbon sequestration programs (see WSJ). We do not have much time left to transcend the notion that life on Earth is possible only if it is economically viable.
The EPA report simply confirms what Yale University and other independent research have already told us. The state’s ban on fracking is not based on science. It’s based on politics. All of the job growth we have seen nationally has been the result of new technology to extract fossil fuels. The governor has chosen a course that denies Upstate New York from participating in economic growth and denies property owners their constitutional rights.
—John Calia, Fairport
It only takes one mistake by a careless person to cause widespread damage to our drinking water and our lakes. To reverse the damage could be unattainable. I don’t have confidence in the operations by these big companies. They just want to make a fast profit. Just with oil drilling and the pipelines, our environment has been polluted. Haven’t we learned from the “mistakes” that have been made already by big companies that assured us that accidents wouldn’t happen? The millions of dollars spent to try and fix these accidents? The cost to the marine life? How about Love Canal? Whose job was it to make sure people would not be contaminated? Kodak and its smokestacks polluting the air around the neighborhoods where a cancer cluster formed. These people had to continually sue Kodak to bring this problem to the forefront so that they would clean up their air. Where was the EPA and DEC then? Big companies have big dollars with which to support politicians. We only have one Earth.
The decision by New York DEC has nothing to do with science. Big money donors to the Democrat Party are against fracking. So Gov. Cuomo and the downstate legislators could never approve anything that their environmentalist masters are against. It’s “screw upstate” again.
I think the environmental impact of fracking remains an unknown and this report did not shed a definitive light on it. I would prefer that the state regulate it, rather than ban it. I would require reserves for future cleanup be established and reflected in the price so the market reflects the uncertain outcomes and the product is not priced unreasonably low vis a vis other alternatives. If in fact it is ultimately determined that it does not adversely affect the environment, the reserves can be released and returned to the consumer, but it should be the consumer of the energy generated that bears the risk of the uncertainty, not the community or the taxpayer, and from a competitive perspective, that uncertainty should be priced into the product so it does not have an unfair competitive advantage against alternatives that do not have the same environmental uncertainty.
—John Hart, Pittsford
A huge mistake not to allow high-volume fracking in New York State. The issue became a political football instead of let’s put our heads together and figure this out for everybody’s benefit.
—Ed Rosen, Fairport
Having read the details of damage done in areas of current fracking, I am strongly opposed. It is dangerous and unsafe. Some places have to permanently drink bottled water and not use their wells, which are contaminated. New York looked at total impact to our area when they banned it. Adding many large trucks and noise to the scenery in the tourist areas of the Fingers Lakes is not a good idea. I do my part for the environment by using recycled metal in my jewelry.
—Kim Pandina, Panda Wear
The fracking opponents drink bottled water from France and the only tap water they use goes into their bongs—so what do they care? They should try using the drinking water for hygiene, but that’s asking a lot.
I disagree because there is so much corruption in New York State; it is extremely difficult to accept their decision.
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
New York State deserves to have the same advantages enjoyed by other states. Well-regulated and properly located wells would be an economic and energy related boost, and New York needs it!
—George Thomas, Ogden
Our governor seems to do everything possible to prevent private enterprise outside of colleges. This preventing of fracking is a good example. Plus, it’s helping people outside New York City—can’t have that!
I wrote an article about this on Justmeans.com.
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