Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Something I have been meaning to post here but keep forgetting is that shortly before my birthday, I submitted comments to DEC about the fracking report. They were as follows:

I have some general comments on hydrofracking in NYS. I knew during the debate last fall that Cuomo was going to ram through fracking. As a state in a time of economic crisis we need the jobs and money, so it is a straightforward cost / benefit analysis to him. It isn't that the costs are not being factored in, it is that they are devalued through mitigation, and even though there are impacts and risks, when balanced with the benefits, the benefit side wins. I like the governor (a lot) and feel he is (very) competent, but I felt at the time of the debate that it's a deal breaker issue that practically (though not quite) rises to the level of a single issue to me, and not "just" because of the water, but the view, the noise, the traffic, the social changes to rural communities. However, I am realistic. It is very likely going to happen; it feels like a forgone conclusion.

That the NYC watershed is exempt from fracking is all you need to know about the threat to water. I grew up in West Shokan, a town that was displaced in 1909 to make way for the Ashokan Reservoir. It has always been about what is best for the many (NYC metro) rather than the few (town of Olive). This is maybe the only time when having the reservoir has benefited my hometown, because to protect the drinking water of the metropolis - the watershed has to be spared.

But I hate to be NIMBY about this issue. I went to college in Oneonta and am very fond of Central New York as well. I don't find the reports about the Pennsylvania accidents anything but frightening. I can see the same type of incidents in our future. Look at PCBs and General Electric, as well as the sites of other industrial brown fields. It wasn't illegal at the time and now we are left with the mess. I think it is absolutely essential to know -- in advance - what's in the poison soup that is being shot into the rock.

We just suffered the wrath of mother nature with the twin hurricanes/tropical storms of Irene and Lee. This revised report was finished just before the flooding. I believe there needs to be additional analysis - how will you guarantee that whatever is the byproduct of fracking - it is kept safely away from us in the event of another natural disaster? What if fracking was already taking place and the flood waters contained its effluent in addition to the sewage, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, etc. it already contained? What would happen to our farmlands? Streams? Houses? Wildlife? Maybe it is time to take another trip to Pennsylvania to assess in the wake of Lee.

Even if the dangers can be mitigated there is no way you could risk sharing front and center the photo of the (supposedly) more pleasant-looking well site in the mitigation report. That is supposed to be a nice looking site? Why are the buildings red? It is nothing less than an offensive scar on the beautiful landscape.

I confess I am not up on the science of water or engineering and my analysis includes nonquantitative emotions. But that doesn't mean they are not valid in a cost / benefit analysis equation. They may be difficult to quantify, but they are real and should not be casually discounted.

The "long short-term" economic benefits to Central NY may well be persuasive to local folks. I don't know; I am not sure how the residents feel who live where the wells will be nearby, but their opinions are very important to me. I always feel when there are environmental questions that I can't stand the corporate environmental interests as much as I can't stand the industry lobbyists, so I am trying to keep an open mind, and sincerely hope that the public comment period does have a positive impact, and isn't simply superficially crossing the T and dotting the I for administrative law compliance. Thanks for reading.

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