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Source: Syracuse Post Standard

Environmentalists meet in Syracuse to learn about 'hydrofracking' and how they can try to stop it


Posted: November 1, 2009
Originally Published: October 29, 2009

Syracuse, NY -- The natural gas drilling method known as fracking is "the most serious environmental challenge we've ever faced,'' a spokesman for the Onondaga Nation said Thursday at a meeting of about 100 environmentalists and citizens in Syracuse.

"The more I study this, the scarier it becomes,'' Joseph Heath, general counsel for the Onondaga Nation, said at a information session and panel discussion at May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society.

Hydraulic fracturing -- hydrofracking or fracking for short -- is the process of drilling down into shale and then turning the drill horizontally to tap pockets of natural gas.

Ron Bishop,a chemistry professor at the State University College at Oneonta, laid out the drilling process. A thick chemical slurry is pumped in to keep the drill bit clear of debris. Once the well is drilled, concrete is poured down to seal it.

Large quantities of water -- up to millions of gallons -- are pumped in under pressure to "hydrofracture'' the shale and release more natural gas, he said. The briny, polluted water then has to be disposed of. In the meantime, it often sits in tanks or drainage ponds prone to overflow and leaks.

"I'm not sure there is anything they could do to make this process safe,'' said Bishop.

Other environmental impacts of fracking, Bishop and others said, include the potential to foul drinking water aquifers; diesel pollution from pumps, compressors and trucks bringing water to a drilling site; and wear and tear on rural roads.

The gathering was sponsored by the Onondaga Nation; Sierra Club, Iroquois Chapter; Citizens Campaign for the Environment; and Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation. They are organizing in a hurry to meet a Nov. 30 deadline for public comment on gas drilling regulations proposed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Citizens Campaign is seeking an extension of the deadline until Jan. 31 to ensure the public has enough time to learn about fracking and comment on the proposed regulations, said Dereth Glance, executive program director.

"Landmen'' for the gas drillers have been signing up landowners for years. A review of Onondaga County records, only one-third complete, shows there are already more than 1,300 leases signed by landowners in the county, said Jack Ramsden, of NOON.

"More than 18,000 acres of land are already leased,'' he said. "The horse is already out of the barn.''

The Haudenosaunee issued a statement calling on New York state to ban hydrofracking and other unconventional gas drilling methods. They will not comment on the state regulations because doing so "means we accept the process of allowing hydrofracking into our environment and impacting our future generations.''