Natural Gas exploration
Fracking foes pile on in Hunt
With this article, The County News concludes its coverage of the contentious and lengthy fracking information meeting held Feb. 16 at the Hunt Baptist Church.
Last week, we focused on fracking advocate Jonathan VanScoy’s presentation and replies. This week we feature the extensive line of arguments offered by the fracking opponents.
Retired state Department of Environmental Conservation employee William MacGregor read a long, prepared statement espousing his belief in the dangers connected with hydrofracking, saying, “The chemicals in the fluid are bad news. They will kill you.”
MacGregor believes that his former employer will be issuing permits for hydrofracking in the near future, and that the best and only means of defense will be an Article 78 lawsuit against the state.
“There are a lot of good people in DEC, but you can’t trust the administrators,” MacGregor said.
Bob Thompson of Frack Free Genesee owns land in Livonia. Three years ago he and some of his neighbors had the opportunity to sign gas leases.
“It seemed like we could get some money and get some free gas. How could it go wrong?” Thompson suggested.
They were promised that “one or two trucks a week” would be coming onto the property after the drilling was completed. Thompson saw no problem with that, but was concerned that the lease duration would be “forever.”
He held off on signing, then did some research — which soon had him converted to a dyed-in-the-wool anti-fracker.
Thompson determined that the actual number of tractor trailer trips onto his property would end up totaling about 53,000!
“Don’t take me or any of us at face value,” Thompson advised the audience. “Do your own research.”
Jamie Carestio of Frack Free Genesee presented two brief movies. The first was a discussion by Dr. Sandra Steingraber, an environmental researcher who recently donated a $100,000 research prize to the New York State anti-fracking movement. The second movie, ‘Fracking Hell,’ was by Dr. Anthony Ingraffea and Chip Northrup.
The Steingraber movie described the methane trapped in shale as a “petrified fizz.” Recovery methods will utilize horizontal drilling, detonation of explosives, and then “force under very high pressure chemicalized waster to release the bubbles.”
“We will industrialize the entire landscape,” Steingraber predicts, warning, “There are many public health problems that come with horizontal fracking that we have not seen so far with vertical drilling.”
‘Fracking Hell’ warned, “[When] a large proportion of fracking fluids comes back up to the surface, we have purposely polluted large quantities of fresh water with chemicals that do not belong in the human environment.”
While dry wells are abundant in western locations and may be used to dispose fluid, Pennsylvania’s and New York’s temperate climate precludes the existence of dry wells and thus offers no such disposal option.
A hypothical accident in which one truck of fracking fluid gets spilled in a river would “wipe the river out.” The movie portrayed a landowner with a pond adjacent a fracking site where fluid had spilled, confirming that the fluid has “killed the pond; killed the fish,” and that the well water can longer be used.
“Our heaven has turned into our hell,” the owner said, holding back his tears.
The Pennsylvania State Department of Environmental Preservation estimates that a serious environmental accident will occur one time for every 150 wells drilled.
Carestio supplied statistics which implied as many as 77,000 well pads could be drilled in New York State, with 52,658 truck trips per pad, each receiving 600,000 gallons of chemicals before water dilution. The amount of water needed for that dilution will be equal to the entire total volumes of six finger lakes.
“We’re talking about turning the rural environment into a factory,” he said.
The depths of several finger lakes penetrate the Marcellus shale layer. With no setback regulation for the lakes, fracking operations might actually touch upon or reach into lake waters, Carestio surmised, “because there is no way to predict the way these fractures are going to happen.”
Tasha Eichenseher of Onieda County tallied 75,000 gallons of chemicals needed for each well line (with the typical pad having eight such lines.) Once diluted, the chemical mixture will “take water away from 10,105 people forever,” since the water can never be purified.
Eichenseher advised that the “reverse osmosis” process for recovering water will be foiled by the properties of theromgenic methane and ethyl glycol ethers, which tend to dissolve the filtration membranes. Furthermore, radioactive radium 226, bonding to the methane, will travel through the filters and be released into the environment.
“There is no plant in New York that can reclaim this water. It will be lost to us forever,” Eichenseher emphasized.
Carestio showed a 15 page list of more than 600 chemicals contained in fracking fluid. Many are designated as ‘hazardous air pollutants,’ ‘carcinogenic,’ or regulated under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act — from which fracking is exempted through the so-called ‘Haliburton Loophole.’
“If I had signed that lease, I would have about four high school swimming pools of these chemicals in my backyard,” Thompson noted.
Thompson added that 8-to-30 percent of the hydrofracking fluid comes back to the surface and, in spite of its chemical content, is labeled as “residual waste” as opposed to “hazardous waste.”
He also explained the ‘compulsory integration’ law: When 60 percent of the land in a defined area is leased for gas recovery, the remaining 40 percent of the owners have no choice. They must lease too.
Carestio exhibited a pressure station map which suggested that noise from compressors operating all day and night would be inescapable over very large regional areas.
Thompson warned that banks can and do call in mortgages when gas exploration commences on a property.
Statistics show 70-to-80 percent of the fracking jobs go to out-of-state workers, Thompson said. He postulated that fracking will be the ruin of part of the tourism and agriculture industries, so could produce a net loss in employment for local people. A New York City cooperative has already pledged not to purchase any produce from areas being fracked.
Businesses that are known to thrive in conjunction with the fracking industry are bars, hotels, and rental properties. Rents increase, often rising above the means of local, soon-to-be-former tenants. Bradford County. Pa. saw its convicted crime rate rise 35 percent in the first year of hydrofracking. The DWI rate increased 60 percent.
Eichenseher noted that fracking fluid will contain highly soluble radioactive radium 226 with a half-life of 1,680 years, plus the byproduct, radon 222. She has documentation of vertical fracked wells showing radiation levels reaching 267 times the EPA level considered safe for exposure.
“Once you break the shale, you’re opening up Pandora’s box. The radiation doesn’t go away,” she said, adding “The radioactive atoms will strongly bond to the methane gas and not easily separate.”
At every well, poisonous ‘fugitive emission’ gases will be in evidence: ground level ozone as well as heavier-than-air gases: methane bonded with hydrogen sulfide.
Eichenseher has Society of Petroleum Engineers documentation that aquifers — “not just independent people’s wells” — have been contaminated by fracking activity, with the contamination spreading at the rate of 32 feet per day.
“You have to ask yourself, ‘Is it worth this risk?’” she said. “We want our future for our children and ourselves.”
“Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. We should not allow ourselves to became collateral damage for some shareholders’ profitability.”
Incompatible with organic farming
Gail Orr, representing the Once Again Nut Butter company in Nunda forecast negative ramifications fracking may have on New York’s 1,600 organic farms and noted that 70 percent of her company’s products are organic.
The company’s organic certifier, upon learning that fracking operations are exempt from EPA clean air and water standards, suggested that fracking in Nunda could put the company’s organic certification in jeopardy.
Orr noted that Once Again Nut Butter, which has been in Nunda for 35 years, has the option of importing its water — or moving out of state.
Mentioning an expansion project the company is planning, she stated, “We are not going to build in any community that is welcoming hydraulic fracturing.”
Refuting VanScoy’s assertion that the natural gas from fracking could solve the nation’s energy importation problem, the representative advised that a great amount of our domestically produced natural gas is not being used domestically, but being exported to Canada, to be used for tar sand extraction for petroleum production.
Also refuting VanScoy, Eichenseher claimed to possess documentation that the fracking industry has “no intention” of contributing money to repair damaged public highways.
Orr also made the argument that the concrete casings which line wells will be ineffective, only lasting the 3-5 year lifetime of a working well and susceptible to deterioration by thermogenic methane. Furthermore, the cement does not bond to the shale level, so pockets around the casing will allow gas to migrate to the surface outside the pipe and casing.
Jeremy VanSickle of Nunda shared photos of his recent trip to Wellsboro, Pa. showing an estimated 40 acre site cleared for a frack pad. Twenty-four silos for holding sand are evident, as well as four tanks each holding 400,000 gallons of water, “because Pine Creek got sucked dry twice trying to provide water to the operations.”
What was once a paved highway was shown in VanSickle’s photo as a dirt road filled with potholes. Three homes can be seen on the hillside — one vacated by the person who sold the land to the gas company and the other two for sale.
Today Wellsboro, a former gaslight tourist site, “looks like hell. It’s filthy,” VanSickle said, noting, “A truck goes through every six minutes.”
“Except for a few truck drivers, all the labor is migrant.”
Discounting the notion that Livingston County is an undesirable place for gas development, Eichenseher claimed to have documentation that 600 of 640 square miles in Livingston County have potential for gas extraction when layers below the Marcellus are included.
After the meeting, members of the audience shared their thoughts with The County News.
Timothy Perry of Hunts said, “I don’t believe they should be doing this. You can’t prove to me it’s safe.”
Richard Losey of Nunda thinks, “If 40 percent of people lose their land by eminent domain when 60 percent sign off, that’s a violation of the right to private property. In my opinion, it’s despotism and fascism.”
Jesse Van Name of the Town of Grove suggested, “You have to stop and wonder if this isn’t a terrorist attack from within, threatening our fresh water.”