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Source: Rochester City Newspaper

MARCELLUS SHALE: Kill the drill


Posted: December 23, 2009
Originally Published: December 23, 2009

Some environmental groups are calling for the state to scrap a draft environmental document which, if approved, would pave the way for a particular method of drilling in the Marcellus and Utica Shales.

The shales contain significant natural gas reserves and energy companies are eager to tap into them. But environmentalists are concerned that the drilling would pose a public-health risk and damage the environment.

The public has until December 31 to comment on the environmental impact statement. Officials with the State Department of Environmental Conservation will review the comments, prepare a response, and determine if changes to the document are needed.

Some environmental groups, however, are calling on state officials to scrap the document and start from scratch. Requirements for drillers are too vague, they say, and the state should develop specific, clear, and enforceable regulations.

"The teeth are not in this document to assure public safety," says Dereth Glance of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

DEC officials have said, however, that the document and the state's current regulatory framework are sufficient to protect the environment and public health.

To get at the natural gas, L-shaped wells will be drilled deep into the Marcellus and Utica Shales. Millions of gallons of fracking fluid - water, chemicals, and an abrasive - are forced down the wells to break up the rock and release the gas.

Concerns over water use and contamination have been persistent, however. New York's water infrastructure already needs investment and if contamination happens, that'll require yet more investment, says Sally Howard, a member of the Federation of Monroe County Environmentalists. [She wasn't speaking on the group's behalf.] And New York lacks treatment capacity for used hydrofracking fluid.

Members of the House of Representatives, including Congress member Eric Massa, are pushing for the federal Environmental Protection Agency to study the effects of hydrofracking on water. And Massa says that the DEC's regulations don't go far enough.

"At the end of the day, when these companies leave, we've got to be able to drink the water," Massa says.