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State Health Department should ban hydrofracking

The environmental impact study on hydrofracturing in New York State awaits State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah’s review. I hope he makes his recommendations in the best interests of the people (based on science) and not the interests of business (based on cash). If he needs a model to review, look at the track record in Pennsylvania.

The “dash to cash” in the Keystone State brought environmental issues that will be long lasting and impossible to correct. The containment of the drilled wells is a huge issue that is regarded by industry as a cost of doing business, not as an environmental cost. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Conservation, the failure rate is almost 7 percent within one year of operation (fail rates increase as the well ages).

The operation of a hydrofracturing site takes up a lot of space, with buildings and access roads clear-cut into mature forests. In addition to the industry’s large greenhouse gas footprint (releasing methane and other hydrocarbons to extract natural gas), clear-cutting forests takes away nature’s ability to store the extra hydrocarbons.

The industry does not have a disposal plan for chemicals used for natural gas extraction. Often, the chemicals are buried on site in large pools. These pools are not only a concern based on the chemicals, but also on trace particles from the shale, like radon, which are known health hazards.

The industry refuses to identify the chemical mix that is injected into the well. How can we identify the health risks associated with the unknown? With the evidence available, the decision from the Health Department should be to ban or continue the moratorium on hydrofracturing.

John S. Szalasny

Williamsville