Friday, September 9, 2011

The Leader, Managing editor- opinion on fracking in NY

Doors will open to fracking in N.Y. THE ISSUE | Hydraulic fracturing in New York state. OUR OPINION | It’s only a matter of time before drilling begins. U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, put out the welcome mat to natural gas drillers Wednesday, urging them to come to New York. “New York is going to be open, it’s going to be open soon,” Reed said. He’s right. Like it or not, high-volume, hydraulic fracturing natural gas drilling will be legal in New York. Reed made the statement during a panel discussion held at natural gas drilling conference in Philadelphia. His remarks came the same day the state Department of Environmental Conservation issued its long-awaited economic and enviro mental report on hydraulic fracturing, the process used to mine the natural-gas rich Marcellus Shale. Drillers use hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to tap into natural gas fields by injecting wells with millions of gallons of chemically-treated water and sand. This process breaks up the shale and releases the gas. The process is controversial, with opponents citing air and water contamination and illnesses as a result of fracking. Recent methane contamination in Pennsylvania, which allows drilling, has added fuel to the fire. There are nearly 4,000 wells in Pennsylvania, and more are on the way. Those who support mining the Marcellus say the industry will bring thousands of jobs, cut U.S. dependency on foreign oil, decrease electric bills and benefit the landowners leasing the land to drillers. We believe it’s the lure of more jobs and an improved economy that will eventually open New York’s doors to drilling. In fact, the DEC report touts the number of jobs – as many as 55,000 – that could come from the industry. A consultant hired by the DEC found that as many as 25,000 full-time jobs and more than 29,000 jobs in other parts of the economy could be created. Even without drilling, New York is already reaping the rewards of fracking. The Marcellus Shale extends from southern New York through Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Although the state does not allow permits to be issued, other fracking-related businesses have found their way to New York. Locally, Schlumberger supplies materials and technical services to the natural gas drilling industry, employing hundreds at its new facility in The Center in Horseheads. In Steuben County, the Legislature is expected to follow Chemung County’s lead in accepting drill cuttings at its landfill to boost revenue. Cuttings are rocks and debris removed to install drill casings into the Marcellus Shale. DEC approval is still needed before Steuben can accept the cuttings. Already, drillers working in Pennsylvania are staying in our hotels, eating at our restaurants and shopping at our stores. The Town of Erwin earns about $500,000 annually selling its water to drilling companies. Painted Post officials are working on a deal to sell water. The village could make an estimated $2.6 million annually in water sales, officials say. Meanwhile, officials in the city of Corning are watching the deal closely as they consider tapping its water supply. None of the projects are without controversy. Contamination and road damage caused by heavy truck traffic are just some of the issues raised by protesters attending meetings. Others fear selling water to drilling companies could harm local residents during a drought. An LPG storage facility proposed by Inergy near Seneca Lake is receiving the strongest opposition. A grassroots campaign drew thousands to a concert held last weekend to fight hydrofracking and the proposed facility. Whether the storage facility is approved by the DEC and Town of Reading officials remains to be seen. However, it’s only a matter of time before fracking is allowed in New York state. The DEC said no permits will be issued until the study is finalized, likely in 2012. A public comment period on the environmental study is open until December. A comment period on regulations will begin in early October. There is still much work to be done before drilling can begin. In its report Wednesday, the DEC issued guidelines to protect the environment, human health and communities from potential harm. In October, the agency will propose regulations. However, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens all but gave his support, saying the state’s priority is to protect drinking water and the environment while allowing drilling to proceed. “This (report) will allow New York’s economy to benefit from this resource and the job opportunities that development is expected to bring,” he said Wednesday. In previous editorials, The Leader has urged caution and backed a moratorium on drilling until the DEC’s studies were complete and regulations created. We still urge caution and eagerly await the DEC regulations. And we don’t want those who oppose fracking to throw in the towel. Their protests have brought needed awareness to problems with the procedure and most certainly have helped pave the way to tougher restrictions. We do not want to discourage anyone from commenting during the public commenting period. You can do so by visiting http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/76838.html. However, we don’t believe opponents will be successful in their drive to prevent fracking in New York. When it’s all said and done, it’s still about the economy.

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