Why we must Ban Hyrdro-Fracturing or Fracking

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Recently I have been involved in a campaign to ban Fracking in Rochester. To some people this may seem like the standard liberal waste of time. After all no drilling company has taken out a lease in Monroe County no less in Rochester, but there are many reason we need to protect our water and city. Despite claims that fracking is save there is a mounting body of independent evidence that this is not true. The Duke University study "Increased Stray Gas Abundant in Subset of Drinking Water Wells Near Marcellus Shale Gas Extraction" found a higher risk of contamination in shallow water wells within 1KM of a gas well. This supports state findings as 4 states have confirmed more than 100 water wells have been polluted from fracking. This should not be a surprise as a 2011 EPA report found ground water contamination in North Dakota. But water contamination is only part of the problem as William Ellsworth in 2013 Science Mag reported that fracking causes micro earthquakes all the time. Though these are not large enough to cause problems much of the polluted fracking water is stored in deep water wells which cause much more dangerous earthquakes. Storage is done this way because most water treatment plants can not clean the chemicals out of the water as the city of Auburn found out to their detriment. Finally, in "Birth Outcomes and Maternal Residential Proximity to Natural Gas Development in Environmental Health Perspectives" there was found a 30% increase in birth defects for mothers in close proximity to fracking wells. So the evidence is very clear that this is a very bad process and even though no drilling leases have been filed in Rochester we still need a ban. The main reason for this is that the state is likely to legalize the process and allow local control. This may happen as soon as January 2015 and when that happens we will need a ban in place as it will make it much harder to obtain one after this. The reason no leases have been filed is that Rochester sits above the Utica Shale formation. This is similar to the Marcellus Shale but is much deeper and has less gas trapped in it. That makes this a perfect area for the storage of waste water which is still dangerous. Yet when Fracking happens in NY the fracking companies will start paying municipalities to take waste water. With a continuous shortfalls in revenues this will be a tempting way to balance the budget even if it puts people's lives and property at risk. Most importantly our water comes from two Lakes which sit right smack in the middle of fracking country. Canadice and Hemlock Lake are well protected pure water souces which are owned by the city of Rochester. Unfortunately we sold land around the lakes to the state and the state is not going to ban fracking on state land. Around this area there have been numerous fracking leases taken out and it will only be time until some are right near the lakes which form our water supply. As a result we will have to sue the state to keep these lands protected and a ban will make a much stronger argument. Two years ago Rochester City council passed a moratorium on fracking. This is a one year injuncture against the process. At the time they claimed this was done to give the legal department more time to get the legislation done. Well two years have passed and the mayor's office continues to claim a ban is tied up in legal. While legal waits, big name democrats like Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand have been touting fracking as right for NY. As a result I am forced to wonder if Rochester has the worse legal department in the world or if perhaps our elected leaders are just letting our legal window to ban fracking close, something I hope none of us will allow to happen quietly.


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