Journalism in the Public Interest

New York Senate Passes Temporary Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing

The New York Senate passes a bill intended to temporarily ban hydraulic fracturing. But it might also end up temporarily banning most gas and oil drilling in the state.

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Aug. 8, 2010, 5:45 p.m.

Yes we are all blind men looking at elephants.  Much information is available. Those for light regulations of the industry, usually seem to be working for for the fracking industry. Those for tight regulation do not have room in these posts to give much detail on the dangers.  The bottom line to me is that the industries do not want independant government oversight.  We have seen many times the damage done by unregulated business.  This includes banking, investing, BP and other corporations working for the bottom line and not the good of society (people) .  Regulate, watch and expose, so less oil spills, water contamination,  and undisposable nuclear and other wastes.


Aug. 8, 2010, 6:21 p.m.

“Wells haven’t been tested for contamination due to the companies using their lobbyists and trade secrets to obstruct testing. It’s no wonder they haven’t found any problems; they weren’t looking for any!” A stand alone quote from my notes

Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Resolution on Marcellus Shale

Resolution Reads as Follows:

Be It Resolved that the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club urges that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:

Prepare a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement to the 1992 GEIS On the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program in accordance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act that would include but not be limited to:

A.  A full build out model of the potential Marcellus gas field, including temporary roadways, pipelines, well pads and staging areas based upon spacing requirements and geographical constraints.

B.  Mapping overlays of the potential Marcellus gas field that include: ground water resources, aquifers, wetlands, critical habitats, naturally occurring radioactive deposits, air quality attainment areas as well as waste water infrastructure, transportation infrastructure, community infrastructure and cultural resources.

C.  An analysis based on these maps and overlays of how collective natural and community resources would be affected by the entirety of the full gas well build out, including the impact of increased water withdrawals, waste water disposal, habitat fragmentation, increased truck traffic, accidental spills or releases, air emissions, noise and secondary growth.

D.  An evaluation of all chemicals and materials used in the Hydraulic fracing process with no exemptions to proprietary privilege as well as an assessment of all possible naturally occurring sources of contamination.  In addition, an analysis of best available practices should be conducted for onsite operations to include banning of open waste pits, on site water remediation, independent water testing (pre and post drilling), non-toxic frac fluids, and emissions control including CO2.

E.  An additional and emphasized analysis of gas well development within the New York City watershed.

In addition, the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club opposes drilling on public lands and environmentally sensitive lands.

Passed by the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Executive Committee June 28, 2008.



Aug. 8, 2010, 10:04 p.m.

TO WARREN K. You said:‘As I understand the shouting it boils down to the presence of benzene in well water used for drinking.  The hypothesis is that the benzene present comes from the hydraulic fracturing “fracking” solutions.

There are many more potential pollutants in the Fracking technology:
The following is just the VOLATILE POLLUTENTS, That go into the atmosphere in the neighbohoods of the operations and into the environment.

Of the dangerous substances emitted into the air from oil and gas production operations, chemicals referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are the largest group and typically evaporate easily into the air. They are primarily found in oil and gas itself, but are also a byproduct of fuel combustion to operate pumps and engines and are found in chemical additives used in oil and gas production. Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, hexane, acrolein, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde are
common VOCs released during oil and gas production.
VOCs pose health threats ranging from short-term illness to cancer or death. Other harmful VOCs that may be released include methanol,58 triethylene glycol,59 and a multitude of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. VOCs react with sunlight to form ground-level ozone, or smog, which is known to be extremely hazardous to human health.


Aug. 8, 2010, 10:23 p.m.

independent nonprofit
organization TEDX (The Endocrine Disruption
Exchange) has analyzed publicly available documents citing the products and individual chemicals used in oil and natural gas development and delivery. TEDX has researched the scientific literature on these substances and has documented the negative health effects associated
with them.
The TEDX analysis of products used in oil and gas
operations in four western states revealed more than 350 products containing hundreds of chemicals; more than 90 percent of these products contain chemicals with one or more adverse health effects. The health effects vary in type and severity, but the four most common effects experienced on immediate exposure are: ................
the short term, such as cardiovascular and reproductive disorders, or certain cancers. .....Because product ingredients are often listed as PROPRIETARY (meaning even the govt does not have access to them) or are unspecified,.............

Mike H

Aug. 9, 2010, 1:03 p.m.

Norman … a “Tea Party/Republican/Birther” am I? Is that the trifecta of political evil in your book? Good to see that you have managed to keep the conversation both civil and on topic when faced with information you can neither digest or explain away. The only comments I have bothered to “debunk” are the ridiculous ones that, on a technical level, don’t hold water. If you want to get all your information from environmental press releases then be my guess, some of us, however, can look a bit deeper into things and come to our own conclusions,.

Mike H

Aug. 9, 2010, 1:08 p.m.

Edward, Dr Theo Coburn thinks that fluoride in drinking water is poisoning hundreds of millions ... she is a nutjob.


Aug. 9, 2010, 1:50 p.m.

Mikie, I see you took the weekend off to nurse your id, coming back on Monday with your B.S. &  nonsense. You are the one who is debunked, you proved yourself any & or all of the handles given you prior. But, just to make something clear, only one point of interest: your Aug 6 @ 3:08pm post. You destroyed your credibility there. I won’t take any time out to go over it, so you can take another week to figure what it was you did. I will put you on ignore now, as there is no logical reason to continue. You can have the last word, but you are a fraud, if I were your employer, you’d be fired with prejudice.

Mike H

Aug. 9, 2010, 2:19 p.m.

Poor poor Norman, I did the best I could with you, but your adherence to your preferred stream of misinformation has left you in a state of hopeless ignorance to the facts.

Facts are, there has never been one confirmed case of hydraulic fracturing contaminating an aquifer with drilling fluid. Baseline tests in Bainbridge Township have demonstrated as much. While the Propublica series on fracturing has done its best to arrange the facts in a manner which would lead a reader to believe otherwise, even Lustgarten had to admit that there have, in fact been no such contamination cases confirmed. 

So you keep those blinders on Norman, and let other people lead you around by the nose the rest of your life.


Aug. 9, 2010, 9:54 p.m.

To Mike H - I suppose anyone with intelligence will note that your attitude to others tends to be snidely insulting.  You deny facts given many times here with a simplistic reiteration of the same unbacked message. “There have been no cases of well or groundwater contamination.  Simple searches of the net refute that.
Factual information follows:
Oil and gas production wells are referred to as Class II wells. A 1989 investigation by the General Accounting Office into the effectiveness of safeguards in preventing contamination from injection wells found 23 cases of drinking water
contaminated by the underground injection of oil and
gas waste.100 Exemptions from
Commenting on the EPA study, the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology stated: The study does not consider the fate of fracture-fluid residuals after decommission of the wells. When hydrostatic pressures recover sufficiently, the residuals will become mobilized in the Powder River Basin’s
fresh-water regimen that we have already demonstrated to be an active flow system. Twenty or 50 years from now these aquifers will be far more important than they are today, and to have left them contaminated with residuals from hydrofracturing would only be seen as a stupid and costly mistake. It can only be concluded that hydrofracturing in the Powder River Basin must be done only with fresh water, or not at all….
About 60 percent of the toxic water used to extract the natural gas— described in spin commercials by the natural gas industry as “clean” energy—is left underground. The rest is stored in huge, open pits that dot the landscapes at drilling sites, before it is loaded into hundreds of large vehicles and trucked….


Aug. 9, 2010, 10:16 p.m.

Dear Mike H - I do not see anything in the article I posted about fluoride.  Perhaps you don’t realize we are talking about other chemicals. Such as, volatile contaminates to the air and residual chemicals in the ground and on the ground.
MIKE - Your irrelevent comment follows:
Edward, Dr Theo Coburn thinks that fluoride in drinking water is poisoning hundreds of millions ... she is a nutjob.
SHE’S a nutjob!! - read your posts.
Here is hard research and specific reference to fracking problems and contamination SINCE 1989.
production wells are referred to as Class II wells. A 1989 investigation by the General Accounting Office into the effectiveness of safeguards in preventing contamination from injection wells found 23 cases of drinking watercontaminated by the underground injection of oil and gas waste.

Very small quantities of toxic chemicals are capable of contaminating millions of gallons of water. Only a few tablespoons of some chemicals could contaminate millions of gallons of ground water at concentrations that would render it undrinkable. Although much of the injected fracturing fluids are pumped out of the ground, 20% to 30% of the fluids may remain in the ground. It is unclear how contaminated water brought to the surface will be handled and treated.


Aug. 9, 2010, 10:23 p.m.

It is time to do something real and no longer bicker purposelesly .Those who have read the posts and wish to protect people, groundwater, air and rivers should now write their congressmen, senators, and write the epa and other regulatory agencies. I hope the evidence leads them to ask for strong oversight and strong rules about fracking.  Write government agencies and donate to the Sierra Club and other groups that care about life. Watch corporate spin doctors closely and expose them when they are found. James Bond said when dealing with a villain, “No More Foreplay”. CRUNCH

Kristy Barnes

Aug. 10, 2010, 6:57 a.m.

It’s simple logic.
With the technology we have today we have access to other safer, earth friendly, fuel sources, which is a win/win.God gave us those resources as a gift.
Once we destroy Mother Earth & our clean water supply, there is no going back, we are DONE!!!!

Ellis B.

Aug. 10, 2010, 9:23 a.m.

It’s quite simple really; we’ve burned up in a short-time what’s taken hundreds of millions of years to form.  Our addiction to fossil fuels is so strong that we need to drill deeper and deeper to satiate our appetite for energy. If we continue on this path we’re screwed.

To say otherwise is just flat out stupid, and it’s basically spitting in the face of my generation and those to come.  Just because an action doesn’t affect you immediately doesn’t mean that the action lacks consequences.  But hey, out of sight… out of mind

Take for example the concern of contaminating drinking water…

Outcome one; we drill now and the industry is right.  No to very little groundwater contamination.  I would prefer to be wrong; I’d rather not just take your word for it (right now I trust the industry about as far as I could throw it). 

Outcome two; we decide to drill now and we screw up.  We contaminate drinking water.  “Whoopies no biggie! Let’s just get it from somewhere else!” Except not.  99%... where did I hear that number before… percent sand and water makes up of fracing fluid? Well yea that’s true; although every 1,000,000 gallons of fracing fluid uses over 20 tons of chemicals, most of which are dangerous at low levels (and if you want to say I’m wrong I’ll show you the math… it’s some basic multiplication)...

But no no I was thinking of something else… oh yea! Over 99% of the water on this planet is undrinkable! And of that 1% that is freshwater, 90% of that is frozen (polar ice caps and glaciers) and in the atmosphere (clouds, rain, snow).  Ooo and who could forget about the complexity of underground water cycles and the difficulty that would arise through the cost, time, and technology it would take to clean up ground water if it were contaminated!

Point being, this is sorta kinda a big deal here.  Regardless of what the industry says about the safety of hydraulic fracturing + horizontal drilling, it must be carefully and fully evaluated and proven before we start.  Don’t tell me it already has been, and 2 sentences later tell me it’s a new and innovative technology (I’m getting really sick of this contradiction). 

Ultimately the people demand it.  The multi-million to billion dollar quarterly profits these companies make can wait while we address the concerns of the American people.  After all the basis of this country is that power is derived from us, not the size of a lobbyists checkbook.

So let’s step back and take this all into consideration. If developed, the energy produced from the Marcellus Shale could power the United States for many years, helping us to move towards energy independence, and creating jobs in the process.  However, if this opportunity is abused and not addressed with the appropriate digression, responsibility, and intention of moving towards a sustainable future, the consequences of such recklessness could be severe… and oh it’ll be my generation and my kids who are going to have to deal with your mistakes.


Aug. 10, 2010, 10:01 a.m.

MARCELLUS SHALE RUNS A BIT UNDER ONE OF THE GREAT LAKES. If the aquifer is contaminated by any means the followin information is relevant. 
The Great Lakes are the largest surface freshwater system on the Earth. They contain about 84 percent of North America’s surface fresh water and about 21 percent of the world’s supply. Only the polar ice caps contain more fresh water. (For additional information, see Physical Facts.)

Nearly 25 percent of Canadian agricultural production and 7 percent of American farm production are located in the basin. More than 30 million people live in the Great Lakes basin - roughly 10 percent of the U.S. population and more than 30 percent of the Canadian population. The daily activities of these people, from the water consumed to the waste returned, directly affect the Great Lakes environments.

In spite of their large size, the Great Lakes are sensitive to the effects of a wide range of pollutants. Major stresses on the lakes include toxic and nutrient pollution, invasive species and habitat degradation. Sources of pollution include the runoff of soils and farm chemicals from agricultural lands, waste from cities, discharges from industrial areas and leachate from disposal sites. The large surface area of the lakes also makes them vulnerable to direct atmospheric pollutants that fall as rain, snow, or dust on the lake surface, or exchange as gases with the lake water. Outflows from the Great Lakes are relatively small (less than 1 percent per year) in comparison with the total volume of water. Pollutants that enter the lakes are retained in the system and become more concentrated with time. (For additional information, see the Great Lakes Atlas.)
Also keep your eyes on the Alberta tar sands and its future pipelines. Alberta tar sands development has the potential to pollute large areas of Canada and the United states.  Certainly we need fossel fuels to survive in the short run, but we cannot permit corporations who desire only short term profits at the expense of the near and distant future. More technical regulation and oversight please.

Ellis B.

Aug. 10, 2010, 11:08 a.m.

A correction of my earlier comment.  When I said “hydraulic fracturing + horizontal drilling, it must be carefully and fully evaluated and proven before we start,” I meant that the ENTIRE process of natural gas extraction must be evaluated… this includes flow-back water, casing issues, storage pits, evaporation sprayers, etc…

This issue is far too important, and affects far too many people, in both the now and down the road.  There is no doubt in my mind that the Marcellus Shale will be developed; our society is too addicted to fossil-fuel based energy, but this needs to be down with the intention of moving towards a SUSTAINABLE future.  With the way things are going in this country now, we really can’t afford another huge mistake.


Aug. 17, 2010, 8:54 p.m.

I think some honest appraisal needs to be offered.
I am a registered geologist with 30+ years of experience in environmental remediation, oil and gas and groundwater development.

Fact 1 - For over 90% of the state of NY, groundwater comes from glacial sediments deposited during the last Ice Age. The average thickness of these rocks is 300 feet. less in some areas, thicker in others. If you drill beyond this depth, the water is brackish and unsuitable fr drinking.

Fact 2. The water supply for NYC comes from the Delaware watershed, a protected area that has been off limits since the late 1960’s. The proposed rule does not apply here since the area is off limits to all development. There can be no drilling here unless the legislature authorizes it, and that is unlikely.

Fact 3 - The Marcellus is found at a depth of 2500- 3000 feet across much of the SW and SC portion of the state, thicker in some areas, thinner in others. If you drew a line from east to west across the Fingerlakes, then there is no Marcellus potential north of that line.  There is no Marcellus potential in the NE portion of the state (i.e. the Adirondaks), no potential in the far suburban counties of NYC, and no potential on Long Island.

Fact 4 - When a horizontal well is drilled. it goes down to 3000 feet, then laterally.  In a vertical well, it is the usual case that the induced fractures travel no more than 100 feet from the original well bore It is virtually impossible for the fractures in a horizontal well to travel more than 100 feet vertically from the well bore.

Fact 5 - One of the problems with glacial aquifers is that the water gets stale in the aquifer.  That isn’t cause by gas well drillling, its caused by the nature of the reservoir rocks.

Hope this helps


Aug. 19, 2010, 12:27 a.m.

Thank you Apyron -  I will consider what you have informed us of.  However the real life contamination caused by well drilling reported by State run studies shows actual contamination.  Also what you state does not excuse the air contamination by volatiles or explain why a significant amount of fracking fluid does not return to the surface. Your information does not have much to do with the fluid ponds that must be disposed of.  It seems, like nuclear waste, there is more waste created than there are facilites to handle them.  Of course I suspect that nuclear waste is much more dangerous and misunderstood than fracking fluids. Do to the disturbing history of business’ control over gas, oil, mineral extraction I think Government oversight is absolutely necessary.  The expense for government should be carried by the companies as they make the profits. There is also some question as to whether the integrity of the pipes is viable which would mean that fracing fluids could escape at groundwater levels.  Further I understand (I will look for information resources for this) that the gas available will only contribute about 10 years to our energy needs.  Not a convincing amount if thousands of years of fresh water is corrupted. 
It is frightening that the groundwater is not being replenished, as you say, it originated in glacial melting which is over. All the more reason to be very careful of our water and expecially the great lakes water.


Aug. 19, 2010, 12:58 a.m.

Enough to satisfy approximately two years’ of total U.S. consumption - See following details.

Not ten years but 2 years - We would jeapordise our surface water, air and groundwater for 2years o energy?
State University of New York at Fredonia geology professor Gary Lash has calculated that more than 14,000 km3 (4.9×1014 cu ft) (490 TCF) of natural gas may be contained in the Marcellus black shale beds that lie between New York state and West Virginia.[119] At the present level of technology, he believes approximately 10% of this – 1,400 km3 (4.9×1013 cu ft) (49 TCF) – could be recovered.[119] This is enough to satisfy approximately two years’ of total U.S. consumption,[117] or a total value of approximately one trillion United States dollars.[21]


Aug. 19, 2010, 1:08 a.m.

I take the liberty to bring a post from “Norman” about pipeline spill. This article can be found at the homepage of PROPUBLICA.  Thank you Norman.


Aug. 16, 6:51 p.m.
I suppose we’re all doomed.  Why do we elect people tp represent us in congress, who have large staffs to do their work, then let industry write the rules for them? Of course, if these same people leave office, they go to work for the industry in one way shape or form. The madness in this country today, is overpowering. When industry writes the rules that they play by on the peoples dime, yet refuse to show any transparency, then that’s criminal. When they bribe any government person, be it with a contribution of any sort, that’s criminal. If the industry wants to write the rules, then they should also be required to put up 10% - 20% of the daily cash value of what ever commodity they push through through each & every pipeline that they use. If at the end of its use, there isn’t any “Accidents”, then they can get a refund. If on the other hand, any accident exceeds the fund held in escrow, then they will be fined the total damages, the line shut down, along with being banned from doing business anywhere. If we don’t get tough & demand industry stop their way of doing things, then there won’t be much of a country left. It’s becoming more difficult as well as costly to continue living in the past. Time to take advantage of the open Science & redo the Energy infrastructure in the U.S.


Aug. 19, 2010, 1:25 a.m.

It doesn’t look like we can trust inustry to do a good job of overseeing pipes and casings:

over 5,000 barrels (790 m3) of crude oil spill out of the pipeline. The oil had not just left behind a bare 2-acre (8,100 m2) patch of ground, but the leak, and the subsequent discovery that six miles (10 km) of pipeline was badly corroded, led to the shutdown of much of Prudhoe Bay oil field and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The impact of the leak was so severe that BP shares slumped nearly 2 percent. BP estimated that it would cost US$100 million to replace the 16 miles (26 km) of corroded pipeline. The company had to face tough questions from the public and shareholers about why the US$200 million a year it spent in maintenance wasn’t enough to keep the 400,000-barrel-per-day (64,000 m3/d) field, the country’s largest, running smoothly.[7] BP also suffered a loss of more than a million dollars a day in profits from Prudhoe Bay. BP was investigated by Congress for their role in the spill.[citation needed]


Aug. 19, 2010, 1:31 a.m.

If anyone considers that BP and others in the industry cannot afford taxes to cover epa and local oversight, consider the following.

From St elsewhere (joke) in Propublica.
BP initially contested the full amount, and the $50 million it has now agreed to pay covers only part of the original fine, which was reduced to $80 million after some violations were found to have been counted twice [1]. Today’s agreement covers only the uncorrected violations [4], and not the new violations [5] that were discovered last year. The additional $30 million in penalties for the new violations are still under litigation [1], according to OSHA.

As we’ve noted, even the original fine [6]—while it may have been a record for the agency—would amount to only about 31 hours’ worth of profit for the oil giant, based on its 2010 first-quarter profit figures.

Commenting is not available in this section entry.
This article is part of an ongoing investigation:

Fracking: Gas Drilling’s Environmental Threat

The promise of abundant natural gas is colliding with fears about water contamination.

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