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Source: The Buffalo News

Hydrofracking conference glossed over pollution risks


Posted: April 4, 2011
Originally Published: April 4, 2011

An anti-fracking public opinion tsunami has rattled the Independent Oil and Gas Association of Western New York. The News reported dumping of hydrofrack wastewater at the Buffalo Sewage plant. The New York Times exposed the pollution of Pennsylvania’s rivers. Quebec banned hydrofracking. Pennsylvania banned it on state land. New York has a temporary ban.

Pittsburgh and Buffalo have permanent bans. Wales and other towns across New York are considering bans. In reaction, the association allied itself with Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center. Penn Dixie has a reputation that suggests a balanced view. But its March 11 conference, titled “New York State Natural Gas Industry: Marcellus and Beyond,” was a whitewash.

The Sierra Club saw the line-up of industry speakers and declined the invitation to send a Daniel into that lion’s den. Instead we took a table in the lobby to explain our views and listen. The program described the first speaker, Dr. Langhorne “Taury” Smith, as a New York State Museum geologist. The Internet says he is also a consultant for gas and oil giants: Ammonite, Saudi Aramco, Angola LNG, Shell, Texaco, Repsol, Devon and Encana.

Smith complained of the bad rap the media had given the Marcellus shale and the millions of dollars it was worth. He admitted, “There is some downside and risk to drilling but hydraulic-fracturing is perfectly safe.” Then he casually listed and dismissed: habitat destruction, water consumption, radioactive wastewater, truck traffic, accidental spills, well water and atmospheric contamination.

Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, told us Marcellus shale is good for the state. He admitted voting against the fracking moratorium and assured us that the Department of Environmental Conservation would have the resources to regulate it. His surprise was to invite hydrofrack wastewater to a treatment plant in Niagara Falls. “It would be good for business.”

The citizens of Niagara County, already burdened with Love Canal and Chemical Waste Management’s toxic and radioactive waste, are unlikely to welcome the sludge laced with heavy metals and radiation that the senator’s invitation would bring them.

Sarah Eckel of Citizens Campaign for the Environment described the dangers to our water supply: massive water consumption and massive quantities of corrosive, radioactive wastewater to be disposed of and what she described as “the enforcement farce” — a DEC stripped of funds and personnel.

Gen. “Buck” Turgidson, in the movie “Doctor Strangelove” would have been at home at this dog and pony show.

Buck was asked his opinion of U. S. casualties in an atomic war. He responded, “Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops.”

Larry Beahan is conservation chairman of the Sierra Club Niagara Group.