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Manhattan politician releases gas drilling report

Calls for moratorium

By FRITZ MAYER

NEW YORK CITY, NY — The borough president of Manhattan doesn’t normally concern himself with goings on in the Upper Delaware Valley. But the coming of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale got his attention. So much so that he had his staff prepare a report on the topic; after all, his constituents get much of their drinking water from the area.

On a conference call with reporters, borough president Scott Stringer said that the report documents dozens of incidents in nine states where hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has resulted in leaks, spills, water contamination and explosions.

A line from a related press release read, “From a water well in Wyoming with a concentration of benzene 1,500 times the level safe for human consumption, to a house in Bainbridge, OH that exploded in a fiery ball, to contaminated wells discovered just two months ago across the New York State line in Dimock, PA, the report presents a substantial catalogue of activity from around the United States that demands a pause and careful review before New York State embraces this method of drilling for natural gas.”

Stringer, who was joined on the call by several environmental advocates, said that fracking fluids present a threat to the city’s water supply. He’s calling for drilling companies to reveal the ingredients of the fracking fluids they use, and he wants fracking fluids to be tracked underground to determine where they are going. He also said safer versions of the fluids should be studied.

Geoffrey Thine, a professor from the Colorado School of Mines, said that safer “green” versions of fracking fluid exist, and drilling companies are required to use them in offshore drilling operations where fracking is required. The more toxic fluids are prohibited in off-shore operations. Thine said it was ironic that the more toxic fluids may be used on land where they might contaminate fresh-water supplies.

Deborah Goldberg, managing attorney of Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm, said that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which is currently conducting a review of the regulations covering drilling in the Marcellus Shale, has not, to this point, been sufficiently vigilant in overseeing drilling in the state, especially in connection with fracking, which has been widely used in vertical wells.

Under the Freedom of Information Law, Earthjustice asked the DEC to provide the records of any testing of ground water or surface water quality in connection with oil or gas wells in the state where hydraulic fracturing was used. The DEC replied that they had no such records because they never asked for or required any such testing.

Goldberg said she thought the current review of regulations will not be sufficient if it is completed by summer as the DEC has projected. “If they do that in that time period, I find it impossible to believe that they will be doing an adequate environmental review,” she said.

Kate Sinding, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said she too thought the review process was being rushed. She said, “The notion that you can do the level of analysis that you need for an activity of this magnitude in that time frame is hard to imagine.”