Sunday, July 26, 2009

We're Swimming In Gas

I'm always suspicious of alarmism or overly emotional pleas. I think that is why I appreciate the site, CatskillMountainKeeper.org, for keeping its cool about a hot topic. I've followed the story loosely for a couple of years, and now its coming to a head. I should tell you.

Parts of New York, Pennsylvania (the first oil state), Ohio, and West Virginia have a geological zone called the Marcellus Shale region. Deep down in this zone is natural gas. As you know, carbon fuel prices went through the roof. This enabled companies, like Halliburton, to invest in developing new extraction technologies. One of those is hydraulic fracturing also known as fracture stimulation or "fracking". The process is simple. Drill a well. Add a lot of water, sand, and a cocktail of chemicals into the plumbing under extremely high pressure. This will fracture the shale deep beneath the ground, releasing the gas and a few other impurities. The gas is shipped to a facility to refine it, then its piped to electrical plants and to us, for use in our stoves.

Read this for a brief overview of NYC water supply system
Read this for an overview of the Marcellus Shale in PA and NY.
Read this for the Catskill Mountainkeeper overview of gas development in NY.
Read this for all kinds of issues via Propublica.
Read a blog all about it from PA.

Energy companies have already targeted Pennsylvania and are now eyeing New York. Much of the shale they are looking to drill is in the watershed of NYC. If my opinion mattered more than a hill o beans, I'd say just don't do it. But we got lots of rural land owners looking at energy salesmen waving dollars in their faces. In the upstate economy, that carries some good weight. State lands are open for drilling, but as far as I know, surface drilling on state park lands is a no-no, although this process uses horizontal drilling technology. There's lots to think about here, but ultimately we're talking about trading NYC's water purity for natural gas. Are we that desperate?

The current NYC administration is against the drilling. They've proposed 1 mile buffer zones around our drinking water supply. But this is unfair to all those who live and drink outside those zones. If it's not good for NYC, it's not good for all of NY.

Oil and gas prospecting wastes are essentially exempt from U.S. national environmental laws. Read the EPA pamphlet.

A Statement from Halliburton on your right to safe drinking water:
The U.S. Congress has recognized that fracture stimulation has been regulated for decades by the states and is essential for future development of America's energy supplies. When passing the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1974, and then amending it in 1980, Congress created a program to monitor disposal of wastes injected underground. Congress made clear it never intended to regulate well stimulation activities under the SDWA (my italics). Congress reaffirmed this position in 2005 when it clarified that fracturing stimulation is exempted from the SDWA, except where diesel is used in the fracturing fluids.
That same year (2005), Halliburton was the first to introduce an industry-leading advancement – continuing to improve a technology it first commercialized in 1949 – by introducing diesel-free liquid gel concentrates into its suite of well stimulations fluid systems (what a coincidence!) and helping operators move to higher levels of environmental performance.

All I can say is WTF?

The latest news I have is this:
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation extends environmental impact study, further delaying of natural gas drilling in New York.



image courtesy of splashdownpa


2 comments:

  1. In a matter of days since this post, the industry and our govt. seem to have joined forces to muscle natural gas into unregulated ascendancy. Gov. Patterson is relinquishing ground as well. More than ever, now's the time to speak out! Write to your senators and representatives. Tell them to vote in favor of the FRAC Act, to remove exemptions for hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act. The information and tools are all in the sidebar at http://splashdownpa.blogspot.com
    DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY!

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  2. I still do not understand why the community allows deep down in the geological zone. I think this is really upset.

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