"Probably the biggest environmental issue in New York State. Ever."
As you can see by Itzl's concerned look, this group is for us to check in at to let people know we are alive, doing OK, and not affected by such things as heat, blizzards, floods, wild fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, power outages, or other such things that could keep us off DKos. It's also so we can find other Kossacks nearby for in-person checks when other methods of communication fail - a buddy system. Members come here to check in. If you're not here, or anywhere else on DKos, and there are adverse conditions in your area (floods, heatwaves, hurricanes, etc.), we and your buddy are going to check up on you. If you are going to be away from your computer for a day or a week, let us know here. We care!This week, our Town Board allowed FrackFreeGenesee to present information for an hour before their regular meeting. New York State currently is in the process of deciding whether to allow fracking in the state. Although there are five landfills/wastewater processing sites currently accepting solid and fluid waste from fracking in nearby states (Ohio and Pennsylvania) in NY, there are no approved wells into the Marcellus shale here.
Bob Thompson, assisted by Jamie Carestio and Bob Nilsson, explained that there are a few "levees" that currently may hold back the corporations as they seek profits at the expense of community. The concepts of home rule and moritorium have been found to be legal barriers to drilling. He explained that only the Town Boards have the power to enact a Moritorium (extended as needed) and that the dictum of Home Rule supercedes the state's interest in allowing or disallowing fracking within the town limits.
His mission, their mission, is to make this presentation to as many Town Boards as possible.
FrackFreeGenesee is a three year old organization of citizen volunteers performing peer-to-peer education to landowners and others about what fracking will mean to their community should it come to town.
Bob and his neighbors were approached by "landsmen" to lease their land a few years ago. In doing his research, he found that the landsmen were willing to stretch the truth about the impact of fracking, and, what triggered him strongly to resist fracking in New York and specifically in the Finger Lakes Region was the provision of the lease stating "lifetime mineral rights". Once embedded into a farmer's property, there would not be a way to exit the lease, short of repurchasing the rights from whichever company then owned them.
The process of fracking was described briefly; drilling deep, a mile or more into the earth then using an explosive to fracture the shale, followed by sending down a high volume of water laden with chemicals and sand under high pressure to keep the fractures open. The toxic fluids are pumped to the surface and must be disposed of, but the sand stays, keeping the cracks in the rock open and allowing the gas to escape the rock and rise to the surface.
The fluids will acquire additional chemical substances while underground, including lead and radon. They will be stored in ponds at the site until they can be loaded into tanker trucks or trains for disposal, usually into deep "injection wells" no longer in production. NY has records of where such wells might be located, but they seem to have lost track of the locations of up to 40,000 of them. Fluids injected into one deep well may return to the surface via another unknown well nearby. Oklahoma, Texas and Ohio have injection well sites which seem to be the epicenters of repeated earthquakes.
One well head can have anywhere from 6 to 18 individual wells and after each well is fracked, the process may be repeated up to three more times with additional water, sand, chemicals and explosives. One individual well will use up to 84,000,000 gallons of fresh water, which is then considered to be "consumed" and will never again be safe or available for use.
It is the combination of the shale and the water in the Finger Lakes which makes fracking the region so enticing to the producers of natural gas. Approximately 7% of all the fresh water in the world can be found in or adjacent to the this part of New York State. However, all that water is the basis for the sustainable industries we now have, the two most important being Agriculture and Tourism.
Damage the water, make it unsafe or unattractive and tens of thousands of jobs will be lost, never to be replaced. The gas production companies bring in their own workers to drill and frack the shale, with only a few left behind to manage the 3-5 acre pad when the well is up and producing. They will work around the clock, drilling and pumping and destroying the serenity of the locality. They will inject a "cocktail", some combination of approximately 700 chemicals (a proprietary blend so unknown to local Haz-Mat teams) and haul those "chemicals of concern" in and out with heavy trucks or railroad cars.
There will be up to 600,000 gallons of chemicals, including known carcinogens, brought in for each well, but if something spills, there is no rapid way to determine how to protect people or the environment. For each 150 wells drilled, industry averages suggest there will be one "accident" per year. If the chemicals enter any fresh water system; stream, river pond or lake, or descend into the aquifer people drill their private and public wells into, those toxic waters will be "consumed" and every living thing in them will die. Such land and water will be unsafe for use far into our children's future.
The "Haliburton Loophole" is the most famous of the seven environmental laws which have exclusions for fracking chemicals, and the right of business to pollute without consequence are placed above the rights of citizens to the quiet enjoyment of their property and the right to live in an undamaged environment.
Organic farming is a large share of Agriculture in the Finger Lakes. If a chemical spill were to occur, those farms would lose their Organic certification. Forever.
Medical costs to the region would surely increase. Dr. M. Resnikoff has calculated that between 2,000 and 30,000 additional lung cancer deaths could be attributed to the release of Radon gas from the earth because of fracking.
Fracking uses so much water that new fights over water rights will ensue, certainly increasing its cost and availability to our currently sustainable industries, putting them into financial peril. Californians are right to be terrified about the use of their fresh water by industrial fracking concerns; Pennsylvania needed to halt fracking for a while during a time of drought.
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There were between fifty and one hundred people at the presentation, and like me some were making notes. I saw farmers, activists and politicians. Most were from my town, but not all, and most of my neighbors were there because they needed to learn more about the impact fracking would have on them and on their families and businesses.
The FrackFreeGenesee volunteers have clearly done an incredible job of bringing together many bits of information, and they have an incredible website where the documentation for all that I have written may be accessed; FrackFreeGenesee.com .
I found that there was much I didn't know about the fracking issue. So much in fact that I must discuss the impact upon individuals and communities in Part II of this Diary next Thursday.
Which environmental issue is of most concern in your location?