Monday, September 6, 2010

Shale Gas: Boon or Bane?

South and east of Buffalo, and deep underground, lies the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation recently found to be rich in natural gas [click image to enlarge]. It is a largely untapped gas reserve that could be a boon to the economy. However, extracting shale gas requires a controversial method, called hydraulic fracturing or fracking, that could be an environmental bane and a threat to human health.

Fracking differs
radically from the method used to safely extract natural gas from conventional wells. Fracking requires drilling vertically a mile deep, passing through the aquifer and threatening drinking water. Horizontal drilling is then done for up to several thousand feet, and so the well drilled vertically on one persons property could end up underneath other properties. The process further requires over one million of gallons of water mixed with sand and toxic chemicals. Applying pressure to this mixture underground leads to fracturing of the shale, thereby releasing the gas trapped in the rock formations, along with polluted waste water.

Locations in states that have used the fracking process have reported over a thousand cases of drinking water contamination and other evidence of pollution. The NY State Department of Environmental Conservation analyzed wastewater extracted from wells and found levels of a radioactive element up to 267 times the limit safe for discharge into the environment and thousands of times the limit safe for people to drink.

A moratorium on fracking in New York state has been called for by citizen groups and student activists, and by a bill sponsored by Sen. Antoine Thompson.
Fracking is also under study by the Environmental Protection Agency and is under investigation by U.S. Congressional committees.

The EPA will hold public meetings in Binghamton NY on September 13 & 15.

An excellent two-part article by Jerry Zremski was published in The
Buffalo News on Sept. 5 & 6, 2010. The first part, Motherlode of gas is fractious pursuit, describes the impact of shale gas fracking in Pennsylvania, in terms of its effects on the economy, the land owners, communities and the landscape. The second part, Amid drilling for clean fuel, why does water go bad?, focuses on environmental hazards and drilling violations associated with fracking.

Stay informed about the impacts of fracking on the environment, economy and public health. Let the Governor and your NY State representatives know how you feel about using the method of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.

See some of the many reasons why people are concerned about fracking in a video trailer of the documentary film, GASLAND, shown below. The film by Josh Fox was selected as Best U.S. Documentary Feature at Sundance 2010. Fox traveled across 32 states to meet other rural residents, like himself, who are on the front lines of fracking. He discovered toxic streams, ruined aquifers, dying livestock, and brutal illnesses...also, a kitchen sink faucet that emits flammable gas!

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