It's proven a nightmare to Pennsylvanians .
By Liz Krueger .
Krueger is a state senator representing Manhattan’s east side and parts of Midtown.
If anyone in New York was still buying the utopian vision being sold by the oil and gas industry regarding fracking — free energy! new jobs! no risk! — a flood of recent news should end the delusion once and for all.
Consider fresh reports about the experience of Finleyville, Pa., where residents were promised easy money with no headaches back in 2008.
But once the trucks and heavy machinery came in and the fracking began, everything changed. Families found their homes unlivable. Houses vibrated and were filled with continuous noise. Air quality warnings and gas odors forced some to flee.
In one especially disturbing case, a pregnant woman was advised by her doctor to relocate to an area further away from a drilling site.
Given the gas industry’s track record, what came next in Finleyville shouldn’t be a shock — but, in its utter shamelessness, it was pretty rare, even for them.
In 2013, homeowners were offered $50,000 to sign away their rights to hold the drilling corporation, EQT, legally responsible for its negative consequences, and those of any future operations.
These agreements covered health problems, property damage, and other negative effects including noise, dust, light, smoke, odors, fumes, soot, air pollution or vibrations.
And the liability releases wouldn’t just exempt the drillers from damages related to drilling, but from its construction of pipelines, power lines, roads, tanks, ponds, pits, compressor stations, houses and buildings as well.
It’s telling that these very same companies that seek legal cover from damage claims consistently insist in public that fracking is safe and has no damaging effects on the environment, health or quality of life.
Despite industry claims that fracking has been a rousing success, people across Pennsylvania are suffering from its effects.
The state’s former health commissioner recently confirmed that state government was derelict in considering the public health impact of the drilling process. Its health department discouraged its employees from addressing public complaints about health issues believed to be related to fracking.
And Pennsylvania’s experience is no anomaly.
In January of this year, the Associated Press published findings from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia demonstrating connections between fracking activities and water contamination. Contaminants include methane, arsenic and various hormone-disrupting substances.
Even the gas industry’s claims about fracking’s economic benefits have been debunked. An independent report by the Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative disproved industry assertions that every gas well created 31 jobs, finding instead that it was only four.
For the past few years, the oil and gas industry has tried to lure New Yorkers with false promises.
But New Yorkers are smarter than that. The grassroots opposition to fracking in our state grows stronger by the day, with an accompanying abundance of science to substantiate our cogent opposition. A new Qunnipiac poll puts opposition statewide at a record high of 48%, compared to 43% support.
New York finds itself at a crossroads. We know that, with the technology and engineering methods currently in use, fracking is inherently dangerous and would result in irreversible harm to New Yorkers; health, our natural resources and our billion-dollar agricultural industry.
Yet the Cuomo administration is still officially reviewing how fracking impacts people’s health.
The state’s highest court recently upheld the rights of cities and towns to ban fracking within their borders. This is a step in the right direction, but pollutants caused by fracking will not conform to municipal boundaries.
As elected officials, it is our job to weigh the facts and science, and then act to protect New Yorkers. It is time for both houses of the state Legislature to pass a bill banning fracking — and for Gov. Cuomo to sign it.
Published on September 1, 2014 in the New York Daily News