Read the report, Finger Lakes Region Gas Lease Mapping Report
Industrial gas development using high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or hydro-fracking, poses inherent environmental and public health risks. New York State is considering allowing a generic permit for hydro-fracking operations. Governor Cuomo has the final say on if and how hydro-fracking will occur in New York State.
What is Hydro-Fracking?
To recover natural gas deposits in shale formations, including the Marcellus and Utica, the industry uses a process termed high volume hydraulic fracturing, which uses millions of gallons of water, laced with a cocktail of chemicals, to fracture shale and release gas. Read more ...
Inherent Risks of Hydro-Fracking
Communities from Texas to Pennsylvania have been impacted by industrial fracking operations. Fracking activities operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during production. Volumes of toxic, radioactive, and caustic liquid waste by-products pose storage, treatment, and disposal problems. Regular operations, as well as accidents, can adversely impact the environment and public health. Well casings that are intended to prevent methane and toxic liquids from contaminating groundwater are prone to failure. Studies have shown that 6-7% of well casings fail immediately, while 50% fail after 30 years!
Primary concerns include human and environmental exposure to:
- Radioactivity that is a physical characteristic of Marcellus shale.
- The hazardous cocktail of hydro-fracking chemicals injected into the ground.
- Air pollution from diesel engines, compressor stations, and flaring.
- Brine that is 5x saltier than seawater that can damage freshwater streams and lakes, as well as corrode infrastructure.
- Hazardous liquid and solid waste that is stored on-site, transported on public roads, and disposed of at municipal landfills or sewage treatment plants.
"It is imperative that any drilling in the Marcellus Shale be environmentally sensitive and safe.
These reviews must demonstrate that health and environmental risks are adequately addressed and protected."
-Governor Andrew Cuomo
The Health Impacts of Fracking
While the fracking boom began years ago in other parts of the country, scientific studies on the public health effects of fracking are just now being conducted and reported. Researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health recently determined that air pollution from fracking, which includes known carcinogens, may contribute to acute and chronic health problems for those living near gas drilling sites. Other studies, including the US Environmental Protection Agency study on the impacts of fracking on drinking water, are ongoing.
Governor Cuomo's decision on whether or not to move forward with fracking must consider the potential health impacts that would come with industrial fracking operations. Governor Cuomo has repeatedly promised that science would dictate the fracking review process; however, New York has not conducted a comprehensive health impact assessment of fracking. A truly comprehensive health impact assessment that includes the latest science and meaningful public participation must be completed prior to Governor Cuomo's decision on whether or not he allows fracking.
Stop The Gas Rush In New York: Let Science Guide The Process
In response to overwhelming public pressure, legislation was introduced in both the NYS Senate and Assembly that would enact a two-year moratorium on fracking and allow for important health studies to be completed. The NYS Assembly has passed the moratorium, and now it is up to the Senate to pass the bill and the Governor to sign it into law!
Write to your NYS Senator and Governor Cuomo:
- Share why protecting public health from the inherent dangers of frackign is important to you.
- Urge your NYS Senator and Governor Cuomo to support a two-year moratorium on fracking and allow for important health studies to be completed.
Contact Governor CuomoWrite to:
Hon. Andrew Cuomo
New York State Governor
Albany, NY 12224
Or Call: (518) 474-8390
Contact NYS SenatorLook up your senator's contact information
Remember to include your name and address in your letter.
Please forward any response to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Citizens Campaign for the Environment, 466 Westcott St. 2nd Floor, Syracuse, NY 13210. It helps us track progress on the issue.
Additional Information on Hydro-fracking
Oil and gas companies are eager to use unconventional, resource intensive drilling methods to recover natural gas from shale deposits in New York State. In September 2009, the state released draft regulations to permit this drilling. CCE is working to protect drinking water, public health, and habitat for fish and wildlife as part of any proposal to use high-volume hydraulic fracturing (hydro-fracking) of the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations.
New York relies upon natural gas for 24% of its energy supply. New York’s natural gas demand is primarily met through sources from the Gulf Coast and Canada. New York State sits atop one of the largest shale formations in the United States, which contains large deposits of natural gas. This formation is called the Marcellus Shale. Additionally, New York has other shale formations, including the Utica Shale formation. Oil and gas companies propose to recover natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica Shales by combining hydraulic fracturing of the shale with horizontal gas drilling wells.
Large deposits of natural gas are estimated to be located deep within the Marcellus shale formation. The natural gas is trapped in pockets, or veins, where the shale naturally fractured during settling. It is more commercially viable to extract Marcellus Shale through high volume hydro-fracking. Hydraulic fracturing is a process of fracturing rock in order to release the natural gas from isolated veins within the shale formation. The fractured rock is kept open using a “proppant” typically composed of sand or other chemicals. High-volume hydraulic fracturing is named because it uses millions of gallons of water per well. In order to capture a commercially viable amount of gas from the Marcellus shale formation the well is drilled vertically to approximately 500 feet above the formation and then the wellbore is turned horizontal to tap all the tiny pockets and veins of gas in the shale. In Pennsylvania a typical horizontal wellbore is 4,500 feet.
According to the DEC there are four primary differences between horizontal drilling and vertical drilling: 1) larger rigs with longer per well drilling time; 2) a higher likelihood of multi-well pads; 3) Using drilling mud rather than air to cool and power the drill; 4) the volume of rock cuttings associated with high volume hydro-fracking.
In July 2008 Governor Paterson signed the well-spacing law which allows for multiple wells to be drilled off of one well-pad. Because multiple wells can be drilled off the well-pad there will be a larger acreage of disturbance during the drilling and during production. During drilling a single well would disturb approximately 3 acres of land and during production where there is partial reclamation there would be 1.5 acres disturbed. For a multi-well pad, 5 acres of land is disturbed, and during production it is 3 acres. Multi-well pads are an attractive solution to minimize land disturbance for natural gas drilling. The drawback is in the concentration of waste generated during the drilling process. Multi-well pads tend to have six wells per pad so the waste generated by a high-volume hydraulic fracturing process is quite substantive.
Drilling mud is used by horizontal, or directional, drilling to cool and power the drill. Drilling mud can be 1) water-based; 2) potassium-chloride/polymer-based with a mineral oil lubricant; or 3) synthetic oil-based. After the drilling occurs the well is fractured. For high-volume hydro-fracking for Marcellus shale a process known as slickwater fracking is proposed. According to the industry it is 98% freshwater, and according to the DEC there are 12 classes of additives proposed to be included: 1) the proppant; 2) acid; 3) breaker; 4) bactericide/biocide; 5) clay stabilizer; 6) corrosion inhibitor; 7) crosslinker; 8) friction reducer; 9) gelling agent; 10) iron control; 11) scale inhibitor; 12) surfactant. These additives are comprised of a variety of chemicals and many of them are toxic. Even though they are only 2% of the solution for slickwater fracking, the problem is compounded by the fact that this is multiplied by millions of gallons.
Rock cuttings from a vertical well to 7,000 feet would be approximately 125 cubic yards and for horizontal wells drilled to the same depth with a 3,000 foot lateral would be 165 cubic yards. These cuttings are stored temporarily on-site in an open, lined storage pit and then disposed of as hazardous waste.
What is Marcellus & Utica Shale?
Named for the exposed outcrop in Marcellus, NY, Marcellus Shale is a large deposit of black shale and is characterized by being very rich in unoxidized carbon. Marcellus Shale covers most of New York State and ranges in depths down to 7,000 feet below the surface and is included in most of the Appalachia. The larger Marcellus shale formation becomes thinner as it moves from east to west and is named for an exposed outcrop in Marcellus, NY. Utica Shale is deposited broadly across the Appalachian Basin and into Ontario, Canada. In New York there is an outcrop along the west and southeast sides of the Adirondack Mountains, and is also exposed along the northern Allegany Plateau. It ranges in depths to over 9,000 feet in the southern portion of the state. One of the characteristics that is common with black shale is that it contains trace levels of uranium. The concentration of this uranium at the surface, on drilling equipment, and in combination with drilling muds, fracking fluid, and other elements exposed in the process of drilling is the primary cause for concern with exposing this shale. The proper disposal of these cuttings, worker exposure, and the potential contamination from open on-site storage must be adequately addressed and present significant environmental and public health challenges.
Protect NY’s Air, Land & Water
Sound science must inform New York State’s rules governing the controversial and polluting practice of hydraulic fracturing gas drilling. Hydraulic fracturing, or hydro-fracking, is under-regulated and poses serious threats to New York State’s water, air, land, and people.
To recover natural gas deposits in deep shale formations the industry prefers to use hydro-fracking; a process that uses millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals to fracture the shale and release natural gas. Volumes of toxic, caustic, and potentially radioactive liquid waste byproducts are created in the hydro-fracking process, with no real plan for safe treatment and disposal. Effective lobbying by the oil and gas industry has led to key exemptions from a laundry list of environmental safeguards, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, and Superfund. New York’s air, land, water and people are vulnerable to hydro-fracking pollution due to inadequate federal and state oversight.
Clean Water is Priceless
New York State’s proposed guidelines for hydro-fracking are significantly flawed and fail to assure protection of public health and New York’s environment. Lacking the infrastructure to address toxic waste byproducts NY could drill itself into economic ruin. Adopting a moratorium until the EPA study is completed is a sensible and proactive policy to allow decisions to be based on sound science, provide opportunities for state and federal legislators to restore environmental and public protections, and ensure that New York learns from the drastic hydro-fracking consequences being experienced in neighboring states like Pennsylvania.
Storing, transporting, and treating liquid wastes from hydro-fracking poses a significant risk for drinking water quality and public health:
- Flowback Fluid—is the contaminated fluid that returns to the surface during the drilling process, and is estimated to be between 9%-35% of the fluids injected during drilling. The flowback contains harmful chemicals and other residuals from the drilling process. The industry prefers to store flowback fluid in open lagoons.
- Production Brine—can be 5 times saltier than seawater and flows to the surface during gas production. The production brine’s high salinity content and concentration can adversely impact water treatment plants and freshwater ecosystems.
- Radioactivity—is a physical characteristic of the natural geology of shale, and hydro-fracking can create new routes of exposure. The radioactivity of production brine waste from traditional vertical wells drilled into Marcellus Shale was found to be 267 times the recommended EPA levels under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The New Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement – September 2011
In September 2011, The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released the revised draft supplement to the Generic Environmental Impact Statement for Oil and Gas drilling in New York State. These proposed guidelines specifically identify procedures for high volume hydro-fracking shale formations.
The proposed regulations would approve the use of large open pits, to store the flowback fluid from well pads. Flowback fluid is the contaminated fluid that returns to the surface during the drilling process and contains harmful chemicals and other residuals from the drilling process. The open pit storage, both on- and off-site, of flowback water could contaminate water quality if a spill occurs. Solutions are already available to the gas drilling industry – the use of closed-loop drilling – which would significantly reduce the risk of water contamination during the drilling process. The DEC and Governor Cuomo can choose protecting public health over the gas industry by requiring the use of closed-loop drilling and prohibiting open pits.
New York’s proposed environmental impact statement continues to allow the use of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals in the fracking process. There is absolutely no reason why the DEC and Governor Cuomo have not prohibited the use of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals. New York must not allow toxic and carcinogenic chemicals to be used.
The revised draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (rdSGEIS) the DEC has placed a 4,000 foot buffer around New York City and Syracuse’s drinking watersheds. The DEC should protect everyone’s water. The rdSGEIS also prohibits well pads within 500 feet of a primary aquifer and 2,000 feet of public water supply wells, river or stream intakes, and reservoirs. These prohibitions are subject to reconsideration after 2 years and 3 years respectively. The DEC should make all protections for drinking water supplies permanent. Even though the DEC has promised to provide limited additional protections for primary aquifers, which serve large populations, there is no similar protection afforded to many other aquifers throughout the state. There is no scientific reason to protect one aquifer versus another. The DEC should give the same protections to all of our aquifers and water supplies.
It is important that NYS take a step back and clearly identify how all the agencies and divisions will work to protect NY’s air, land, and water. The DEC has yet to specify who will pay the costs to ensure that NY continues to have clean drinking water and safe rivers to fish in, and guarantee the remediation of large amounts of untreated waste. New York State must ensure oil and gas companies pay for needed safety and remediation infrastructure and should not expect New York taxpayers to foot the bill for treating and disposing of toxic waste. New Yorker’s cannot choose between clean water and energy; we need both. If DEC cannot enact the necessary public health and environmental measures, then hydro-fracking should not be allowed to occur in NY.
More information on Marcellus Shale from the NYS DEC
updated by seckel 4/10/13