Received an early Christmas gift from the Governor today–a simultaneous veto on the May 5th moratorium on “hydrofracking”, with a new moratorium that pushes it to at least July 1 in a more limited fashion. Hydrofracking or “fracking” is hydraulic fracturing done to stimulate more production from natural gas wells. Fracking injects a cocktail of chemicals deep into the ground in shale deposits, literally fracturing the rock formations, generally below 5,000 feet. Today, Gov. Paterson preserves some upstate jobs, but enables the next governor, Cuomo to do his own due diligence..
I could explain the positive effects of this natural gas drilling “innovation”, but allow me to share a demonstration of one of the side-effects instead.
This reminded me of a sad drama that took place in Cleveland more than forty years ago. When I was living in Cleveland, often when we drove past the Cuyahoga river, my father or mother would inevitably tell the story of how the river once caught fire because it was so polluted. Well, I never quite believed them, even though I knew it was truth. Fact is, the river burned not once, but on more than a dozen occasions.
The restoration of the Cuyahoga River has been a truly remarkable 40-year effort , but protecting our natural resources, before we have the opportunity to pollute is the best strategy. The “burning river” lead to the Clean Water Act and dozens of other policies, including the development of the EPA. During the 80s, my father and I fished Lake Erie but we steered well clear of Cleveland and the river. Today, the Cuyahoga has steelhead trout along with smallies and pike, I mean, steelhead? That’s nothing short of a miracle and shows you what can happen when we do right by nature. It does right by us.
Back in July, I told my fishing buddies over at Westchester Fishing and encouraged them to spread the word about the intentions of the gas and oil companies trying to hydrofrack the Marcellus Shale deposit which stretches for some 14K miles from New York to West Virginia. Should there be even a small incident, what makes us think we have the technology to protect the entire Catskills watershed AND our NY water supply? As usual, the oil and gas companies can think of a million ways to get the gas, but have none in mind to clean it up. And if the BP oilspill is any indication of what could happen, we owe it to ourselves, our enviroment, across countless counties and multiple states, to demand more time, diligence, and investigation into the effects of hydrofracking before we drill right below our very feet, possibly endangering the most populous parts of the Eastern Seaboard and its waterways.
Hydrofracking of course is just one more technology in a long list that have the potential to go awry. Not only did the Cuyahoga river fire burn in the 60s, the entire town of Centralia, PA was lost to a mine fire. Forty years on, Vice and Palladium captured just how Centralia is doing.
If you want to learn more about the Marcellus Shale and hyrdrofracking, check out the Atlantic Sierra Club’s explanation (I’m a member) and their position here. For a more official view from the oil and gas industry-sponsored lobbying organization, American Clean Skies Foundation, check out their 30-min film here. And if you’re really committed to learning more, check out the documentary by Josh Fox, Gasland. America’s Natural Gas Alliance has an interesting response to Gasland here. Gasland won the Special Jury Selection – Documentary at Sundance 2010. [Update – Gasland was nominated for an Oscar Best Documentary Feature!]
*Disclosure* I work for a PR agency, Porter Novelli, who lists American’s Natural Gas Alliance as a client. The contents of this blog DO NOT reflect the views of my employer. I was not asked to write this post on behalf of ANGA or Porter Novelli.