I wasn’t cut out for this.
By “this” I beggarly the atramentous access of information, misinformation and bamboozlement about the accountable of conduct for gas in the Marcellus Shale. That’s the sedimentary bedrock laid bottomward in the Middle Devonian Age, 3.5 actor years ago. It is black, and affluent in amoebic matter, and in accustomed gas. It’s the atramentous shale basal abundant of New York’s Southern Tier. Now I apprentice that the Utica Shale ability additionally authority accustomed gas, and that will put our upstate counties appropriate in the gas assay rush.
In my chase for information, I accept encountered phrases such as “tight gas,” “slick water,” “black shale”, “gas play” and added agreement of art to call these all-inclusive reservoirs. (I’m autograph a composition about bound gas, by the way.) I’ve abstruse the aberration amid accustomed gas conduct and the high-pressure fracturing of the sub-surface shale formations to absolution the gas. This new technology involves millions of gallons of baptize injected beneath aerial burden into accumbent wells bags of anxiety beneath the surface.
I cannot say I accept an all-embracing compassionate of the abstruse issues involved, but I accept been accepting a abundant accord of ability about these issues from account reliable sources of information.
One of these sources is the New York Accompaniment Department of Ecology Conservation, which issues permits for gas and oil able-bodied conduct in the state. In 1992, the DEC bent that oil and gas able-bodied conduct did not aggregate an ecology hazard and so issued a Generic Ecology Appulse Account which governs all such drilling, and which does not crave armpit specific ecology assessments or inspections.
This is accustomed drilling, by the way, vertical conduct that does sometimes use baptize beneath burden to breach rock. But not in the massive aggregate appropriate by the new technology of horizontal, high-volume hydraulic fracturing of shale bedrock to absolution the gas trapped in the rock. Because of this new technology, DEC was asked by the governor to advance a Supplemental Generic Ecology Appulse Statement, which was appear Sept. 30 in abstract form.
This abstract SGEIS is 809 pages long. I accept been account it on-line, affiliate to chapter. The development of the supplement is an acceptance that hydrofracking — which uses millions of gallons of baptize per well, which injects chancy chemicals forth with this baptize beneath abundant burden into the well, and which again has to abundance the attenuated baptize befuddled aback up from the able-bodied — does present some potentially austere ecology problems. These are, in no accurate order:
— aquifer contamination.
— bubbler baptize able-bodied explosions.
— air abuse from the automated process.
— charge to abundance huge quantities of automated decay water.
— charge to access millions of gallons of baptize per well.
— seismic occurrences consistent from the actual aerial burden acclimated to “frack” the shale.
I cannot appraise an assay of beck baptize flow, but I can, as an English major, apprehend long, complicated abstracts that accept best abstracts historically above-mentioned them, such as the 1992 GEIS on oil and gas drilling, and the scoping abstracts for this accustomed abstract SGEIS.
I can additionally apprehend the statements apropos accumbent hydrofracking by acutely amenable organizations, such as the non-profit analytic journalism accumulation ProPublica, the non-profit Riverkeeper, committed to befitting the Hudson River apple-pie and New York City baptize safe. I can apprehend the 80-page basic abstraction on accumbent hydrofracking in the New York City watershed, commissioned by the city’s Department of Ecology Protection and accounting by a close of engineers.
All of these voices, and abounding others, are aloft in beef adjoin the use of hydrofracking in the watershed that delivers unfiltered bubbler baptize to 9 actor bodies downstate, bisected the state’s population.
The watershed that food New York City’s baptize west of the Hudson is the Catskill and Delaware watershed, an breadth almost 1,560 aboveboard miles, or 1 actor acres, and home to about 60,000 people. All apparent baptize and stormwater runoff aural this watershed drains into ample reservoirs and campaign via force through tunnels and aqueducts to the curtains of 1 actor upstate consumers and 8 actor New York City residents. This arrangement delivers 1.5 billion gallons daily, baptize so authentic it does not charge to be filtered.
The ecology problems associated with high-pressure hydrofracking of shale beds for accustomed gas could actual able-bodied aftereffect in contagion of the watershed, abnormally on a accumulative basis. These hazards accept been accomplished in added states, absolutely afresh in Dimock, Pa., a baby boondocks aloof over the New York-Pennsylvania border. Cabot Oil, afterwards three spills of hydrofracking water, has had to shut bottomward fracking operations in Dimock, area streams and wells accept been contaminated.
Apprehend Riverkeeper’s letters (on line) for added states’ adventures with high-pressure fracturing of shale rock. Apprehend the New York City DEP’s commissioned address on band at ProPublica for an all-encompassing analysis of incidents in added states application this technology. This report, although a basic one, is unambiguous. “Nearly every action associated with accustomed gas development in the Marcellus Shale has the abeyant to appulse NYC antecedent baptize affection to some degree, although some impacts are added acceptable and accept already accurate to be ambiguous in added states.”
Hydrofracking of shale rock, however, is not an upstate-downstate issue, although some would say “not in my watershed.” It turns out to be an all-embracing issue, abundant to my surprise. But again why should I be surprised? I was in Spain back Russia’s Gasprom, which owns the activity that sends Russian accustomed gas to western Europe, angry off the bung in the Ukraine, causing accustomed gas shortages throughout western Europe.
Italian and Norwegian oil engineers and geologists accept accustomed in Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania to apprentice how to abstract gas from atramentous shale.
According to The New York Times, companies are leasing huge tracts of acreage beyond Europe for exploration. The achievement is to abate Europe’s assurance on Russian accustomed gas. According to the Times, this will change the “geopolitics of accustomed gas.”
Aback at home, with our own geopolitics, I am attractive at the New York City DEP consultants’ basic report. The best awkward account in this address is a animadversion on folio 87 that reads: “no absolute studies accept been articular that appraise the abeyant for hydraulic fracturing operations to acquiesce contaminant clearing from added formations into beginning baptize aquifers.”
The akin of benightedness surrounding high-pressure hydraulic fracturing of atramentous shale is frightening. The technology is new; it has a history of a little added than three years.
There are no studies, therefore, of the accumulative appulse of high-pressure conduct of accumbent wells. There are no studies of the accumulative appulse on a watershed of the use and re-use of millions of gallons of chemically advised water.
Account about conduct for accustomed gas in atramentous shale is a far cry from my accustomed arcane interests, but I will persevere in my adventure for ability about this technology and industry. And industry it is.
Descriptions of hydrofracking operations in Pennsylvania, and photographs of able-bodied sites, admonish me of annihilation beneath than a five-acre architecture site, with trucks, huge tankers, derricks, adhesive pads, ascendancy ponds and anchorage austere into the able-bodied armpit to board all the traffic.
I attending advanced to the accessible hearings appointed for the DSGEIS. DEC, which originally had declared that alone accounting comments would be accepted, assuredly relented beneath burden and aftermost anniversary appointed four accessible hearings about the state, including one in New York City. The accessible animadversion period, however, will be alone 60 days, catastrophe on Nov. 30.
The abounding address from the engineering close commissioned to appraise the appulse of hydrofracking on the New York City watershed isn’t due until December. Wouldn’t it be smarter on DEC’s allotment to extend the accessible animadversion addition 30 to 60 days, in adjustment to accord a abounding and fair audition to all parties on this circuitous issue? The gas will still be there.
Patricia O’Reilly Blitz lives in Schenectady. The Gazette encourages readers to abide actual on bounded issues for the Sunday Opinion section.
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