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The Next Drilling Disaster


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The historic BP Oil Spill in the Gulf and deadly mining disasters in West Virginia have shown the tragedy that lax (or nonexistent) regulation of resource extraction can cause. The next example of this could be hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which could contaminate New York City’s drinking water with carcinogens and toxic sediments.

Fracking is a drilling technique which involves injecting toxic chemicals, sand, and millions of gallons of water under high pressure directly into the ground to release natural gas in shale deposits. This mixture of toxins and sediment, along with any natural gas released can leak to the surface.

Some of the largest deposits of this kind of natural gas are found in the Marcellus Shale, a huge geological formation underneath Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania as well as New York; oil and gas companies are eager to exploit it.

The Nation posted a great primer on the issue last week by introducing a feature article explaining the problems of fracking operations. The article points out that a lack of regulators is a key problem:

Drilling is now regulated entirely at the state level, where there is not nearly enough manpower to handle the volume of wells. In 2008 thirty-five inspectors were responsible for more than 74,000 wells in Pennsylvania (with promises to hire sixty-eight more as Marcellus drilling grows); nineteen inspectors covered more than 13,000 wells in New York; and twenty-four oversaw more than 64,000 wells in Ohio.

The article also has insight on the dangers of fracking for New York in particular:

The issue is of particular concern to residents in New York City and Syracuse, two of a small number of US cities with a special permit to provide unfiltered surface water for drinking. Drilling in upstate watersheds could place the cities’ water supplies at risk and create the need to build billion-dollar water treatment plants.

Guess who’d pay for those treatment plants? Not the drilling companies.

Riverkeeper, New York’s clean water advocate, has worked on the ground and in the courts to stop fracking for years, and now is rallying all New Yorkers to take up the call “Don’t Frack With New York’s Drinking Water!” You can join by telling candidate for Governor Andrew Cuomo to commit to an executive order banning fracking in the state.

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