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Some thoughts about hydrofracking

October 13, 2011

Following are just a few of the concerns and questions I have been asking myself about fracking and gas drilling.

Average citizens have not had time to learn enough about hydrofracking to make informed decisions about it; it feels like powerful political and economic forces are trying to rush the process. Since public discussion about fracking began only about three years ago, is it unreasonable to request more time to learn about and prepare for a process that is inherently risky and potentially dangerous?

It’s very difficult to get accurate and trustworthy information about this controversial issue. For instance, the USGS recently reduced its estimate of the potential natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale by about 80%, a huge reduction from its earlier estimate. Given such uncertainties, I think the gas industry and government should adopt a cautious and conservative approach to hydrofracking, working cooperatively to develop safer materials and techniques and more accurate estimates. We must be assured that regulations and enforcement procedures will be effective before drilling is allowed. Without adequate enforcement, can even the best regulations prevent accidents?

Remember that the primary responsibility of local government is to protect all of its residents—not to help enrich large landowners or to bail out individuals, businesses, or industries that are struggling. It is irresponsible not to use all available tools to prepare our town for the impact of hydrofracking—that’s like being “neutral” about floods, earthquakes or tsunamis when you live in those zones. Would you rather be over-insured or under-insured?

Before drilling begins, we need to put into place all possible reasonable safeguards, such as effective and enforceable road use agreements; and zoning provisions that restrict or prohibit undesirable uses such as man-camps (temporary living facilities for transient workers) and base yards, compressor stations, processing facilities, hazardous wastewater treatment plants and toxic chemical storage.

Do you really want any of these uses in your town? Will a policy of “neutrality” prepare us for the potential impact of gas drilling? Please consider these questions carefully before you step into the booth in November.

Steven Lundgren
Candidate for Town of Delaware Supervisor (D)
Callicoon, NY

[Editor’s note: for an in-depth version of Lundgren’s position on hydrofracking, visit tinyurl.com/3sqmjg5.]