The state of New York will ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, because of the potential it holds for creating a public health risk and its questionable economic benefits.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo essentially had removed himself from the decision-making process, saying he would rely solely on aides with expertise on the issue, including Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens and Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.
“I don’t think I even have a role here,” Cuomo said at a news conference.
At an open cabinet meeting in Albany, the state’s capital, Zucker said he based his decision to ban frackin on a single question: “Would I let my child play in a school field nearby or my family drink the water from the tap or grow their vegetables in the soil? After looking at the plethora of reports as you see behind me and the others that I have in my office, my answer is no.”
As a result, the State Department of Environmental Conservation will issue a legally binding ruling formally prohibit fracking.
Fracking is often viewed as a major contributor to the boom in US oil and natural gas production, particularly in Texas, Pennsylvania and North Dakota, contributing generously to local economies and making the United States far less dependent on imported oil. It’s also controversial because some fear it could harm the environment.
Fracking relies on injecting water mixed with sand and various chemicals at high pressure into shale rock deep underground. The shale traps the oil or natural gas, and the jet of treated water cracks open the shale, releasing the fuel, which is then extracted by a method called horizontal drilling.
The chemicals used in fracking vary from driller to driller, and these proprietary mixes are kept secret. Some studies of fracking sites have drawn conflicting conclusions about health risks. Some say the practice poisons ground and surface water, and perhaps even degrade air quality. On the other hand, at least one that says that the chemicals are perfectly benign.
The study in the journal Analytical Chemistry says the chemicals are identical to those found in household detergents, toothpaste, even ice cream. Another, however, found that other chemicals, which are used in “reasonably high concentration” in fracking, are toxic to mammals, according to a report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of the Pacific.
Fracking in New York would be conducted in the state’s southern and western regions over the Marcellus Shale, a 12 million-acre subterranean deposit of natural gas that stretches into Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
But Martens, the state’s environmental commissioner, says drilling there would be of dubious economic value because his agency would have to limit the areas where drilling could occur. He didn’t mention that the price of oil and gas have been plunging in the past six months, making gas produced by expensive fracking increasingly less profitable.
“The economic benefits [of fracking] are clearly far lower than originally forecast,” Martens concluded.
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
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