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Letter: Beware of Fracking

Robert B. Catell’s letter (Jan. 12) glosses over fracking’s significant problems. Fracking is a dangerous business. It causes real and measurable impacts that we are aware of as well as the potential for unknown hazards that may affect people and the environment. Considering examples based on Pennsylvania and Ohio’s experiences (See Doug Wood’s letter Dec. 29, 2011 at www.antonnews.com/ Manhasset Press), we can see the harm that fracking has caused. In spite of rigorous regulations, oversight, and the “implementation of best practices and latest technology,” problems continue to occur. The fracking problems presented here are the tip of the iceberg for New York State.

According to Mr. Catell, since 2008 the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has been conducting a comprehensive review “of fracking’s environmental impacts and has proposed stringent standards for controlling and mitigating them.” The New York State DEC Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) supports the issuance of thousands of fracking permits that have been sold across the state, but according to the Sierra Atlantic Winter 2011 newsletter, the SGEIS, “…lacks a full formal health impact assessment.” Issuing fracking permits before conducting a full evaluation of public health risks, threatens to expose New Yorkers to the carcinogens identified in other states soon after gas drilling began. It is unacceptable to ignore the absence of this important SGEIS component and for the DEC to consider monitoring health issues after drilling has begun before formal regulations approved by the legislature are in place. The potential for human exposure to carcinogenic pollutants is a serious concern. A conservative, cautious, protective regulatory approach is required. The DEC is responsible for the strict oversight of people’s health and the environment. Why haven’t state health officials spoken up on behalf of the people of New York State? If the DEC overlooked the SGEIS human health impact assessment component and supports the sale of fracking permits, how can we rely on them to assure our safely? Will the DEC complete the SGEIS with a full formal human health impact assessment before the legislature approves the regulations?

The DEC is considering transporting radioactive wastewater from upstate New York to Manhattan and Long Island for processing in local water treatment plants. One of the sites will be Glen Cove. This information is in the revised draft SGEIS located on the NYSDEC web site http://www.dec. ny.gov/data/dmn/rdsgeisfull0911.pdf. In section 5.13.3.2, you will find a discussion of Municipal Sewage Treatment Plants around the state that might be employed to handle the waste. In Appendix 21 you’ll find a listing of the plants, including Glen Cove. According to the Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment of Long Island, New York State does not have wastewater treatment plants designed to treat radioactive wastewaters from high volume fracking operations. How can the DEC even consider such an idea? Will New York State require sewage treatment plants that accept drilling wastewater to test for radioactivity and will they enforce this requirement? Where and how will the radioactive water be stored? It is not an option to put the treated radioactive water into LI Sound or the ocean and hope it will disperse. How will the radioactive material and the poisonous organic and inorganic substances be separated and treated? Where and how will the sludge, containing heavy metals, poisonous organic and inorganic contaminants, remaining in evaporation ponds be safely disposed of? How will the evaporation ponds be protected to prevent them from leaking through liners or overflowing onto the land and streams in times of heavy rains like we had last summer?

When natural gas is depleted gas companies close shop and leave. It should be the gas companies’ responsibility to remove the infrastructure created to support fracking operations and restore the area to a natural condition in harmony with the surroundings. Gas companies should be required to post a bond for the cleanup and restoration work. Will the gas companies be required to contribute money up front to a “super fund” to cover the cost of unforeseen future remediation problems.

Public relation firms and lobbyists are busy putting a positive spin on the use of natural gas as a clean, safe, available, inexpensive fuel. However natural gas extraction has known public health risks, environmental pollution, and waste disposal problems. There are too many unanswered questions to make this a safe solution for our energy problems. It is not prudent to wing it. It is not in the people’s interest, nor that of our state to allow fracking here. Our neighbors in Pennsylvania and Ohio are witness to this. Mr. Catell acknowledges that “economic and energy benefits do not justify environmental harm.” The state intends to complete its environmental review and publish regulations. Will the final draft of the regulations be presented to New Yorkers for review and comment before finalization or will they be a done deal? Long Island and New York State is our home. As citizens of New York State, it is our right to expect that our elected officials comply with our demands to safeguard the safety and health of people living here and in addition to protect our environment. New Yorkers have a right to expect nothing less of their elected officials. It is urgent for New Yorkers to let their state legislators know of their opposition to fracking and demand that our health and environment be protected. At present the technology is flawed and accidents have been harmful to people and our environment. We do not need fracking; we need strong conservation and safe alternative energy programs. The fracking ban should prevail.
Angela Trombetta