An editorial from the Riverdale Press on why we can’t depend upon the Watershed to protect us from fracking.
Open your fracking mouth
Now that we are done obsessing over a potential natural disaster, we can refocus on our state’s inching toward a man-made one.
After parsing the Department of Environmental Protection’s most recent documentation of the impact of hydrofracking in New York State, Anne Marie Garti, a local environmental advocate, has emerged with a message for people who live in New York, Westchester County and the Catskill and Delaware watersheds: Don’t get comfortable.
“You are a signature away from being at risk from hydrofracking,” she wrote in an e-mail to anyone who would listen.
New York City is among the locales that have so-far been spared from the imminent threat of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the process of extracting natural gas by drilling wells and injecting water, sand and chemicals under high pressure.
It is not entirely clear which chemicals are used in the process because of what’s called the “Halliburton Loophole” in a 2005 Bush/Cheney energy bill that exempts gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act and allows gas companies to treat their chemical recipes as trade secrets.
Public pressure has forced several drillers to voluntarily release their recipes for frack water and the revelations aren’t reassuring. Several of the ingredients are known carcinogens or cause other health problems.
The only reason we have not yet been directly threatened by the dangerous and mysterious process is that we qualify for filtration avoidance under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Surface Water Treatment Rule.
But there is nothing permanent about our status, Ms. Garti says. And she’s right. According to the EIS, there would be no fracking allowed within 4,000 feet of the city as long as we maintain filtration avoidance. But that status is up for renewal in 2017 and a number of conditions could even lead to its elimination before then.“How might this happen?” she asks. “Let’s say there are a series of storms that result in turbidity levels exceeding the ‘clear water’ standard … The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will make allowances for two such occurrences in one year, or five such occurrences in 10 years. Given the extreme weather conditions that accompany global climate change, it is not hard to imagine having an unusual series of storms that cause excessive flooding.”
Hurricane, er, tropical storm Irene anyone?
And there’s more where that came from. If there is one instance of a waterborne disease in the city, that is another cause for us to lose our status, according to Ms. Garti.
Fifteen community boards, including Bronx boards 7 and 8, have signed resolutions calling for statewide fracking bans. Numerous groups, including the Park Slope Food Coop, have mobilized around the issue.
Now is not the time to stop. Along with Ms. Garti, we encourage local residents not to be lulled into submission. We hope to see more action in Riverdale and Kingsbridge and for our notoriously vocal community to be outspoken during the 60-day public comment period which began on Wednesday, Aug. 31
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