AC Alert for April 10, 2012 Fracking Waste Ban Unites Elected Officials

Primary tabs AC Alert for April 10, 2012 Fracking Waste Ban Unites Elected Officials

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 7:30pm

CONTENT: Newsletter

Some things both political parties can agree on in these dis-united times:  A proposal to ban local sewage treatment plants from accepting toxic wastewater generated by possible upstate New York fracking has achieved what few other issues have done recently on Long Island: worked to unite Democrats and Republicans politicians and interests.

Similar bans are under consideration downstate, in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island -- just east of New York City's borders, with 2.8 million residents living in one of the nation’s most heavily-populated suburban areas.

The Nassau County version of a ban was first proposed by Republican legislators; the Suffolk County version was proposed by Democrats.

“Legislator Denise Ford said Wednesday that she and fellow Nassau Republicans are following the lead of their Democratic counterparts in Suffolk in drafting legislation that would outlaw dumping of chemical byproducts from hydraulic fracturing, a controversial practice also known as fracking.

"We’re finally making the necessary improvements to update our plants, and now is not the time to even consider inundating our system with out-of-town toxins, Ford said, referring to $70 million worth of repairs that are being made to the troubled Cedar Creek and Bay Park sewage treatment plants."

New York State has issued a moratorium on fracking while state leaders and the state's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) debate regulations that would open up gas-rich regions to industry. One important consideration: where to dump the mix of sand, carcinogenic chemicals and water after it is pumped into the underground shale formations to release the gas and brought back up to the surface. The proposals floated to send such wastewater to municipal sewage treatment plants across the state (including those on Long Island), is one of the proposed options released in an early draft report. (Source: Long Island Press)

Both of these counties are currently facing significant budget issues, and hardly a week goes by without another dust-up between the politicians over taxes, operating costs and capital investment. Sure, the fees from fracking dumping might help. Yet, concern about fracking waste seems to transcend all other political differences and so far, trumps financial considerations. Perhaps that's indicative of the strong feelings and emotions at the local level that the subject of fracking generates -- even miles removed from where fracking operations might be allowed in the upstate Marcellus Shale.

As a growing number of energy companies pursue this process to get to formerly-unavailable energy deposits deep in the earth, local communities -- even those like Long Island which are hundreds of miles from drilling locations -- are becoming more familiar with fracking and its by-products.

The growing public debate at both local and national levels is in large part about getting at domestic fossil fuel sources and lessening dependence on important oil and natural gas.
Proponents frequently mention the new jobs created (with lots of dispute about the real numbers), as well as the economic benefits in regions where shale drilling takes place. Some farmers and ranchers look forward to these new revenue flows to cushion economic blows due to weather, downturns in commodity prices, or the possibility of reduced federal farm subsidies.

However, other individuals and community leaders are not looking so positively at the presence of oil and gas drilling on their land and in their community.   Whatever decisions are made -- political fireworks and disappointment will result.

This is especially true in areas where public and private water supplies may be threatened by sloppy processes or inadequate protections. Long Island depends on underground aquifers which the fracking opponents say would be threatened by transporting and treating water in the Long Island region.  (Note that the state's elected comptroller and pension fund trustee, Tom DiNapoli, and leader of the state senate, Dean Skelos, are both residents of Nassau County. They are involved in the state-level debate about fracking in general. (The comptroller is a Democrat; the senate majority leader a Republican.)

The widening public debate on fracking now involves various state elected legislators, regulatory officials; members of congress; and other elected officials at the local level; public health professionals; environmentalists; academics; civil society organization leaders; and, industry oil and gas executives.

Recognizing the importance of this issue, AC editors established a special Hot Topic Section several years ago -- “The Truth About Fracking.”  Our agenda is to seek out the truth and to provide a full and comprehensive information center where news articles, commentary and research on all sides of the fracking debate can be accessed.

Here are some of our most recent articles from that Hot Topic Section:

Fracking too risky to water supply?

In this age of buying public opinion, every other TV commercial is an oil company’s pro-fracking message, touting protection of the environment, wildlife and agriculture, while also promising new jobs.

Rise in Midwestern earthquakes probably due to oil and gas production, study suggests
(Source: Chicago Tribune)  A federal report says oil and gas production may explain a sharp increase in earthquakes in the nation's midsection. The researchers found the rate of quakes has jumped six-fold from the late 20th century through last year, with a particularly sharp rise from 2009 to 2011. That includes mild quakes.

Exxon shareholder vote on fracking gets SEC nod
(Source: Reuters) The Securities and Exchange Commission has backed a shareholder resolution that will let Exxon Mobil investors vote on requesting a report on the financial risks of the regulatory and community responses to fracking. Resolutions on the risks of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, received support from 28 percent of shareholders at Exxon's annual meeting last year, and from two-fifths of the shareholders of rival Chevron Corporation.

Fracking health studies take hold, with challenges
(Source: Delaware online) While New York State regulators have spent four years mulling the environmental effect of shale gas development, the potential human health impacts have been given short shrift, according to health advocates. Environmentalists and people living near drilling sites say the risks include contaminated water wells and air pollution. The industry says those fears are exaggerated and that the process has been used safely on tens of thousands of wells.

Report: Fracking wells produce high yields
(Source: Marion Star) Natural gas wells using the drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing are producing at a much higher rate than traditional wells, according to the first look at production figures from nine active wells in the Utica Shale formation in eastern Ohio.

Spectra looks to bring U.S. gas to Ontario, Quebec
(Source: Globe and Mail) Spectra Energy Corporation is pursuing a long-term strategy to replace Western Canadian natural gas with U.S. shale gas in Ontario and Quebec, creating further pressure on domestic producers to develop export markets to Asia. The company is already reversing a line previously used to export Canadian gas into New York State in order to import supplies from the prolific Marcellus Shale deposit in Pennsylvania.

EPA Pulls Order Forcing Driller to Provide Water
(Source: ABC News) The US Environmental Protection Agency is no longer requiring a gas driller it had accused of contaminating private wells to provide water to two North Texas families. The EPA submitted the withdrawal to the court in Texas after a judge concluded residents in Parker County had collaborated with an environmental consultant to falsify video showing how their water supposedly contaminated with methane could be ignited.

This is just a sampling of the information in our Alert. Go here for the full text of this alert, and more information on Sustainability, and other Accountability related topics.