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Fracking: The Debate Continues




A site featuring hydraulic fracturing is shown here. Large volumes of water are transported to the site for the fracturing process. The chemicals and sand used in fracking are mixed on site for injection into the well. According to the Congressional Research Service, high-volume fracking involves the injection of two to three million gallons of fluid per well. Low-volume fracking results in 20,000 to 80,000 gallons of fluid per well.


Hydraulic fracturing has received a considerable amount of publicity recently as environmentalists decry this method of natural gas extraction while proponents say this is one of the better ways for America to increase its energy supplies.

Commonly referred to as “fracking,” the procedure is a well stimulation technique used to maximize production of oil and natural gas in unconventional reservoirs including shale, coalbeds and tight sands.

During hydraulic fracturing, specially engineered fluids containing chemical additives and proppant are pumped under high pressure into wells to create and hold open fractures in the formation, increasing the exposed surface area of the rock in the formation and, in turn, stimulate the flow of natural gas or oil into the wellbore.

The use of the chemical injection fluids and its potential effects on drinking water has led to concern by environmentalists and other groups on the fracking procedure.

NYASLA Seeks Ban
The New York Chapter of the Society of Landscape Architects recently drafted a letter to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) offering comments on a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) on High Volume Horizontal hydraulic fracturing in which they urge the DEC to ban fracking in the state “until such time as it is shown to be safe, clean and have minimal or mitigable impacts on the environment including water resources.”

In the letter to the DEC, chapter officials said the NYASLA “finds the proposed unconventional gas extraction practices for New York State troubling, potentially dangerous to long term public health and detrimental to maintaining environmental quality.”

In the event that the DEC decides to permit limited fracking in the region, the NYASLA offered four suggestions to the commission:

Clean Water Standards - Protection of drinking water sources is of highest priority. NYASLA suggests that Federal Clean Water Act standards be applied to gas extraction in New York. Precautions and oversight personnel should be in place in advance of drilling, and in the event of a conflict over permitting specific drilling locations, the most stringent regulations should be applied.

Regional Cooperation and Planning - NYASLA suggests regional scale planning and cooperation among the states containing Marcellus shale to protect interconnected habitat, groundwater and surface water resources that extend beyond political boundaries. The Delaware River Basin Commission provides a model for interstate coordination, which we suggest be extended for the purpose of HVHHF planning to the other states in the Marcellus area.

Cumulative impacts – The chapter suggests analysis of the full “build-out” of the proposed development for gas extraction, to visualize and comprehend the costs and impacts associated with HVHHF, comprehensively and cumulatively.

Health Study – The NYASLA joins other organizations suggesting that New York State have an independent Human Health Impact Analysis done for hydraulic fracturing, in advance of permitting this activity.

A Different Viewpoint
The Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York (IOGANY) has also submitted comments to the DEC. The IOGANY does not support the DEC’s proposed regulations.

“In its current form, the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) imposes permit guidelines that fail to strike a balance between the future exploration of New York’s vast natural gas reserves and the appropriate, necessary protection of our environmental resources,” said Brad Gill, IOGA of NY’s executive director.

The IOGANY contends that the impact statement and its accompanying regulations will not result in greater environmental protection. Rather, they will set an unreasonable bar for oil and natural gas developers prepared to bring jobs and opportunity to Upstate New York and will make development economically unattractive.

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April 24, 2014, 10:23 pm EST

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