By Rita Yelda
What will it take for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to come out with an unequivocal stand against fracking before New York suffers the dismal fate of Pennsylvania and other states that have let the gas industry frack with abandon? While maintaining New York’s current moratorium is important, banning fracking in New York is the only way to protect our air and water from the contamination fracking brings.
Fracking is exempt from federal environmental regulation under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and the Safe Drinking Water Act, so its cumulative public health impact has been neither properly documented nor understood – until now.
A report published this month by Environment New York Research & Policy Center indicates just how bad fracking would be. Citing data from 17 states over a nine-year period, scientists found case after case of contaminated drinking water, chemical spills and elevated levels of airborne carcinogens. They reported thousands of “orphan” wells left uncapped and abandoned.
These issues are the rule, not the exception. A Duke University study published in October found dangerous levels of radioactivity and salinity in wastewater at the Marcellus shale site in Pennsylvania. Hundreds of billions of gallons of highly toxic wastewater were produced around the country in 2012 alone. The wastewater cannot be contained effectively in disposal wells and waste pits, so contamination of the watershed is inevitable. Companies have already begun trucking it across state lines to dump sites in New York. Fracking would also bring heavy truck traffic and industrialize rural New York, with roads, pipelines, well pads and other infrastructure.
The oil and gas industry has proven time and time again that it’s not a good neighbor. The industry is more interested in its profits than giving back to the communities. That’s why when fracking contaminated water in Dimock, Pa., the industry refused to accept responsibility and has now stopped providing water to affected residents. And throughout Pennsylvania, residents who expected royalty checks were surprised when the industry started withholding money from their checks for transportation of the gas and other costs that landowners expected the industry to pay for.
We’ve seen the boom turn to a bust in Pennsylvania, as the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, leaving behind contaminated water and the aftereffects of industrialization. That’s why thousands of New Yorkers will be joining the Global Frackdown on Saturday. In Buffalo a rally and march will take place in Bidwell Park at 11 a.m. We’ll be sending a message to Cuomo – protect our air and water.
Rita Yelda works at Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food.