2:29pm

Thu September 20, 2012
Fracking impacts

"The Costs of Fracking" report released by environmental group

An environment group is out today with a new report it says puts the full financial picture of hydrofracking into better focus.

The report, titled "The Costs of Fracking" [PDF], was released by Environment New York, a group opposed to hydrofracking being allowed in New York state.

The report was unveiled at a press conference in Albany this morning. (WXXI's capitol correspondent Karen DeWitt was at that press conference.)

Environment New York's report (which was also released this morning under the Environment North Carolina banner) uses studies and reports from other regions of the country - such as Pennsylvania, Texas and Colorado - that already allow fracking, to predict impacts on New York.

The Innovation Trail team has looked through the report and pulled together some key arguments from the report:

Five areas of concern are identified:

Drinking Water Contamination: drinking water contamination cleanup (if/when it has occurred) is costly, and rarely attempted.

Health Problems: toxic substances in fracking fluid and wastewater have been linked to health issues.

Natural Resources: the process of hydraulic fracturing converts rural and natural areas into industrial zones.

Impacts on public infrastructure and services: fracking strains public services and imposes cleanup costs that have to be borne by the broader community and economy.

Broader economic impacts: Hydraulic fracturing undercuts longer term economic prospects, (eg; house and land values, employment sustainability).

Drinking water contamination

The study looks at a few cases of alleged methane contamination in Pennsylvania and Colorado. It sites Cabot Oil & Gas spending $109,000 to remove methane from 14 household's well drinking water in Dimock, Pa.

It also says that if fracking were to pollute the New York City watershed, a fix would cost $6 billion. (The Department of Environmental Conservation has said fracking will not be allowed in the New York City or Syracuse watersheds.)

Health

The study refers to monitoring in Texas and Pennsylvania and a study from the Colorado School of Public Health that showed an increased risk of illness amongst residents living in proximity to natural gas wells from increased levels of benzene and methane measured in the air.

It also references a recent investigation by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health warning based on reviews of air samples from 11 fracking sites that “workers [at the sites] may be at risk of contracting the lung disease silicosis inhalation of silica dust.”

It also quotes analysis of air pollution associates production on the Fayetteville Shale in Arkansas with a $10 million public health cost during the year 2008.

Infrastructure

The report says the truck traffic associated with a single fracking well (About 3,400 one-way trips, according to the DEC) is equivalent to nearly 3.5 million car trips. The report says:

The state of Texas has approved $40 million in funding for road repairs in the Barnett Shale region, while Pennsylvania estimated in 2010 that $265 million would be needed to repair damaged roads in the Marcellus Shale region.

The report also looks at the possible strain on local emergency resources. It sites a 2011 survey of eight Pennsylvania counties. It found that 911 calls increased in seven of them.

Conclusions

A summary of the report’s recommendations:

The spirit of the summary calls for the strict enforcement of codes to reduce damage caused by fracking while also noting that it believes current laws to be inadequate.

It’s main conclusion is that federal, state and local governments should require oil and gas companies to put up forms of financial assurance such as bonds sufficient for maintenance, remediation and compensation. (We reported on how some municipalities are preparing for just that.)

It also suggests the imposition of additional fees and taxes to create sufficient financial incentives for companies to minimize the impact of their operation.

The report credits the Colcom Foundation for support, a foundation that supports discussion of overpopulation and environmental sustainability.

Response

Statement by Brad Gill, Independent Oil and Gas Association (IOGA) of New York Executive Director.

“This new report offers nothing new to the discussion about America’s energy future; it is just a rehash of the same overstated, long-resolved or patently false claims, using some deliberately vague and misleading words and phrases.

For example, this report cites the “drinking water contamination” in Dimock, Pa.  In fact, the U.S. EPA has declared the water in Dimock to be safe – four separate times.

Responsible natural gas development is supported by President Obama and Governor Romney’s campaign because it can bring us closer to energy independence, improve our economy, create new jobs, and actually improve the environment.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently wrote: ‘The production of shale gas through fracking is the most significant development in the U.S. energy sector in generations.’  We agree.

New York needs an honest dialogue about good jobs and cleaner energy sources, not tired rhetoric and inaccurate claims.”