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New York’s Hydrofracking “Ban” and what It Does or Doesn’t Mean for the Environment

In Climate, Energy, Fracking on February 26, 2015 at 12:14 pm

The Landscape of Fracking in NY: What’s Changed and What Hasn’t

Saturday, February 28 at 1:00pm

University United Methodist Church, 1085 E. Genesee St.

Environmental Groups have hailed Governor Cuomo’s recent (Dec. 2014) decision to ban hydrofracking in New York as the first ban by a state with significant natural-gas resources. While this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction in terms of environmental regulations, we as citizens need to turn an analytical eye to this new policy to determine if it is doing enough to control this harmful practice in our home state. First, we need to familiarize ourselves with the official definition of hydrofracking– “a stimulation technique involving the pumping of hydraulic fracturing fluid, possibly with a proppant, into a formation to create fractures to increase formation permeability and productivity”. In other words ‘fracking’ is a technique of drilling for natural gas in which large amounts of water and relatively small amounts of chemicals are forced into shale deposits in order to release natural gas.

The specifics of how this new law will affect drilling practices in New York are still uncertain, but the law does prohibit oil companies to “drill, deepen, plug back or convert a well for oil and gas exploration, production, input, or storage purposes to any depth… greater than 500 feet” until the well owner has applied and received a permit from the state. The basis of this decision came from a cabinet meeting in which the acting state health commissioner, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, said the public health examination on hydrofracking had found “significant public health risks” associated with drilling. Dr. Zucker listed concerns about water contamination and air pollution, [not to mention earthquakes, a common occurrence in heavily fracked areas].

So knowing that the new legislation is not exactly a Hail Mary for citizens concerned about fracking, activists can still work on these issues on a local level. Since the New York Court of Appeals ruled that towns could use zoning ordinances to ban fracking in June, dozens of communities across New York have passed moratoriums and bans on fracking.

Finally, what average New Yorkers should do before taking any further action in this arena is educate themselves on the ‘wheres’, ‘whats’ and the ‘whys’ of hydrofracking. A great way to get started, and to meet similarly minded people, is to attend “The Landscape of Fracking in NY: What’s Changed and What Hasn’t”. This event will be held Saturday, February 28 at 1:00pm in University United Methodist Church, 1085 E. Genesee St. This teach-in will focus on the non-drilling aspects of fracking that are being pursued by industries in New York, including proposals for pipelines, compressor stations, storage caverns, and waste dumping. Speakers will include Doug Couchon, from People for a Healthy Environment and Mary Menapace, from Gas Drilling Awareness for Cortland County. I hope to see fellow environmentally conscious citizens there, since as we all know, more often than not, the solution to pollution is… education!

Rand Aaron Michaels a freshman at SUNY school of Environmental Science and Forestry studying environmental education and interpretation, and is dedicated to providing members of the public with accurate non-biased information about issues relating to the environment and social justice. 

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  1. Reblogged this on Maia Kumari Gilman and commented:
    This is a good summary of what the fracking ban in New York State means, and what New Yorkers can do to further their own education on the issue.

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