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New York Should Extend Moratorium on Fracking

We Simply Don't Know Enough About Fracking Impacts to Frame Regulations that Would Protect the Environment and Us

For the past three years, the state of New York has held a moratorium on hydrofracking, but that could be revoked this year if New York’s  Department of Environmental Conservation adopts new regulations that would allow the controversial natural gas extraction method in New York’s Marcellus Shale.

Photo by Bosc d'Anjou

Apparently, if the regulations are passed drilling could start as soon as this spring.

New York's Marcellus Shale formation sits in the Delaware River Basin, which supplies drinking water to 15.6 million people.

Environmental and citizens’ groups have been keeping the pressure on Governor Andrew Cuomo to either ban fracking in the state or enforce more stringent regulations, but frankly, the possibility of a outright ban is slim. As for more stringent regulations, well, the truth is we simply don’t know enough about the health and environmental impacts of fracking to even begin to frame regulations that would safeguard our surrounding and us.

Just last month, the Environmental Protection Agency released a draft report linking contaminated drinking water in Pavilion, Wyo. to a nearby fracking operation and since New Year’s Eve there have been two earthquakes near Youngstown, Ohio, that experts have linked to fracking in the region. Hydraulic fracturing has also been linked to earthquakes in Arkansas, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma.

Additionally, legal loopholes allow oil and gas firms withhold the full list of chemicals they use during the fracking process under guise of protecting “trade secrets.” If we don’t even know what chemicals going into the ground during drilling, how can our regulators test if they pose a risk to public health or environment?

“We don’t know the chemicals that are involved, really…. We don’t have a great handle on the toxicology of fracking chemicals,” Vikas Kapil, chief medical officer at National Center for Environmental Health, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the conference where doctors urged the US to declare a moratorium on fracking until the health effects are better understood.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? But when did market forces ever adhere to the precautionary principle? Really, in the end it’s still up to us, the people, to demand and ensure that corporations act in our best interests. At the very least, what we should be asking for is, as the good doctors have suggested, another moratorium so that the overall impacts of fracking can be thoroughly studied.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the last day the public can submit comments to the DEC about the proposed drilling regulations and environmental impact statement for fracking in New York. Do lend your voice against starting up fracking New York. Submit your comment on the DEC website, here.

Maureen Nandini Mitra, Editor, Earth Island Journal.Maureen Nandini Mitra photo
In addition to her work at the Journal, Maureen writes for several other magazines and online publications in the US and India. A journalism graduate from Columbia University, her work has appeared in the San Francisco Public Press, The New Internationalist, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, The Caravan and Down to Earth.

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