Hydraulic Fracturing (Hydrofracking) is a mining technique utilized for at least sixty years in the United States. The method is simple: water that has been treated chemically and infused with sand or ceramic bits is pumped into cracks in shale formations to break them apart and release natural gas and oil. It’s also been used to release water and create new wells.
However, recently it has come out that National Fuel has had an agreement with the Buffalo Sewer Authority to have hydrofracking water treated in the same plant as normal drinking water. Activists brought this to the attention of the Buffalo City Council, demanding the practice be banned within the city limits of Buffalo. On February 9th, this ban went into effect. While regarded as largely symbolic (there are no Marcellus Shale deposits in Buffalo), it may push other Western New York counties and cities into similar bans.
This revelation has only added to the furor over hydrofracking that began in Allentown, Pennsylvania last year when Southwestern Energy had a blow out of hydrofracking material that (according to the lawsuit filed by thirteen local families) contaminated the ground water.
Natural gas is one of the few industries willing to come into New York due to the high taxes and costly environmental regulations imposed by the state government, and it’s ban could send a state already well into the red of debt into all out bankruptcy. On the other hand, given the risk that chemicals in the hydrofracking water pose to humans (including antifreeze, bleach, and sulfides) it is clear that effective environmental regulation needs to be done to ensure that while we can obtain fuel, it can be done safely.
While I feel for the residents of Buffalo (a good friend of mine lives there with his family) and don’t want to see them come to harm, I also don’t want the economic future of New York to be destroyed by yet another green movement crackdown on a promising fuel source and economic boon to a state already in dire financial straits. Given the current attitude of this Administration towards energy development it is unlikely that any effective action will be taken to either safeguard the residents of Buffalo, or to ensure hydrofrack mining continues safely. More than likely, wholesale bans of it will be undertaken without even attempting to address the problem, bleeding New York dry and once again making people ask “When is 2012?”