Hydro Fracking Letter

January 5, 2012

Joe Martens
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-6510

Re: dSGEIS Comments

Dear Commissioner Joe Martens:

As a New York State Assembly member, I have previously supported moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing within my state, feeling as though questions raised by the public had not been sufficiently answered. As you seek public opinion on this issue, and the debate regarding hydraulic fracturing (fracking) grows more intense, I once again believe that there is too little public understanding of the process and its consequences for representatives of New York to make the best decision regarding the state’s future. Furthermore, the number of answers that have been provided by fracking studies seem insufficient in comparison to the number of questions that remain.

The idea that natural gas can serve as a viable solution to New York’s energy crisis is economically positive, but I feel as though the long-term risks and benefits must be weighed with the environmental and social aspects as well. We as government leaders would like nothing more than to take every available measure to improve New York’s economy and the lives of its citizens, but we can not be irresponsible or short-sighted, which is why I maintain my stance that more questions should be answered before deciding to allow fracking or ban it permanently. Although this process would indeed reduce our dependency on imports and stimulate job growth, I continue to wonder “at what cost?”

So many questions arise regarding the issue of fracking, most notably those involving the environment. For instance, what effects to the watershed could occur, and how extensive could they be? I have read reports that contaminated fracking fluid could disperse over large distances through underground springs in some parts of New York; it seems it would be impossibly hard to track, contain, and remove any potential contamination. Though a statement by the DEC concluded that the now infamous groundwater-contamination case in Wyoming (the first proven case of contamination as a result of fracking) was incomparable to the proposed fracking in New York State, our more rigorous standards do not mean infiltration is impossible or unpreventable. I am glad to know that the federal exclusion of hydrofracking from the Safe Water Drinking Act does not hamper or affect our protection of New York’s groundwater resources, as made clear by the DEC.

Operationally, I feel there are a number of vital questions as well. There are many minor yet unintended issues that can result from or are an aspect of day to day hydrofracking procedures, such as tank leakage, chemical composition, waste/treatment, and routine inspection. Which chemicals are used and their effects on the environment need to be thoroughly understood and an explicit list of appropriate, safe chemicals needs to be maintained alongside a list of chemicals that cannot be used. Overall, more research and understanding of the procedure of fracking must be conducted before a definite answer on the risks and benefits can be produced.

I am very concerned regarding where responsibilities regarding fracking will ultimately lie, and specifically the government’s role in potential repercussions. In practice, it can be assumed that drilling companies will be required to pay any costs involved with an accident, as was the case with the BP oil spill. However, to do this, there would need to be assurance from the companies (through law or otherwise) that they take responsibility for any clean up and reparations relating to the incident.

These and countless other issues have been raised by many constituents, and though there are some answers, few have been brought to the public to satisfy concerns. I feel strongly that with a process as controversial as fracking, the DEC and all associated sectors of New York State should take progressive steps in educating our citizens about all sides of the issue. Until this is the case, I cannot support any actions other than further moratoriums regarding fracking.

Sandy Galef
NYS Assemblywoman, 90th A.D.