Saturday, January 22, 2011

Natural Mining in City Limits Debating: Bufflao, NY

"The Buffalo Common Council Chamber was the scene of a spirited discussion Tuesday, January 18,2011 as those on both sides of the hydraulic fracturing issue clashed. The Common Council will decide on a moratorium for the controversial method of drilling for natural gas will be allowed in the city limits of Buffalo. This decision is mostly symbolic considering there are few places in the city suitable for such drilling. However, the common council’s decision will be seen as setting precedent for the future of fracking.

Horizontal hydraulic fracturing is a technique used in drilling for natural gas. At the end of a conventional vertical well, the drilling turns horizontal for hundreds of yards. Then high pressure water treated with toxic chemicals is injected into the shaft, breaking up the surrounding rock so natural gas can more easily be collected. This happens at depths around 5,000 feet and uses millions of gallons of water, and produces large amounts of toxic waste water.

The potential for contaminating community water systems and the water table can not be denied. This risk combined with the impact of the construction of new roads, pipelines and the fleets of trucks required on communities brings to the question, is this the best approach for economic and energy development?

On the opposite side is the promise of the creation of hundreds of desperately needed jobs and millions of dollars of profits and tax revenue for cash strapped local and state coffers.

Before leaving office, Governor Patterson vetoed a bill suspending horizontal hydraulic fracturing until July, deftly passing the buck to the Cuomo administration. The new governor has yet to make a comment. Sheldon Silver condemned it at the State of the State speech. Cuomo ignored it.

Legislative Committee Chairman Joseph Golombek Jr., along with members Majority Leader Richard Fontana, Michael J. LoCurto and David A. Rivera considered those wishing to speak, encouraging them to approach any open microphone and make their individual points.

The supporters of the ban included Rita Yelda and Albert Brown of Frack Action Buffalo. They expressed their concern for the environment, and the impact that fracking could have on the watershed. Lovejoy councilman Richard Fontana, stated his position by declaring that the Great Lakes were our greatest asset, and must be protected. Other opponents pointed out that drilling can destroy property values.

Ellicott district councilman Darius Pridgen asked John Holko president of Lenape Resources in Batavia and secretary of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York if this technique will destroy human lives. Economic considerations were not his concern. John Holko, answered it was risk cost benefit like driving a car was risky. Of course, Mr. Pridgen countered by saying getting behind the wheel is voluntary, drinking contaminated water is not.

Williamsville businessman Gary Marchiori stated that hydraulic fracturing has been used for decades, in New York State and was regulated by the DEC, as well as federal agencies. He stated that the gas industry provided jobs and tax revenue. He warned that the United States is depending too much on coal, which is environmentally less than desirable. He added that natural gas is a far cleaner source of energy than coal and is the future energy for United States energy independence.

Those opposed to the moratorium also presented the natural gas industries facts, figures and guarantees of safety. Many of the industries facts on toxic waste water collection and reuse as well as the degree of ground water contamination in community water systems and were challenged by supporters of the moratorium.

The common council is taking an admitted skeptical view of hydraulic fracturing. But they listened carefully to both sides and asked pointed and sober questions. There were more seeming ordinary citizens in the room who favored fracking than anticipated.

As noted above, the council and everyone seem to acknowledge was the fact that the vote will be symbolic. But it will be taken seriously by those on both sides.

But regardless of the outcome, the battle with continue".-By Grady Hawkins

This is a terrifying example of how greed can destroy areas, the threat of water contamination and soil toxicification. Natural Gases are still fossil fuels and the US does not need more fossil fuels, it needs to get off them! The fact that drilling within city limits speaks to the fact that oil companies are getting desperate. This proposal would have never had traction even ten years ago, so the fact that this is even a debate at all in inherently problematic and symbolic of a trend that the US is running out of fossil fuels and becoming increasingly desperate.

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