Niagara Gazette

March 10, 2013

GLYNN: Assembly puts hydrofracking on hold

By DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — ‘Water, water, everywhere ...’ 

Is there really that much? Everyday we’re swamped with stories about hydrofracking and widespread concerns that the process is unsafe and a potential threat to our environment.

Proponents have argued that hydrofracking will create countless jobs, especially for the economically-depressed upstate communities. Opponents contend that drilling and fracking could lead to polluting the streams and

groundwater.

No one seems to ever mention, however, the sheer amount of water that would be consumed. Mostly we’re simply told the process uses a mixture of chemicals, sand and highly pressurized water to smash the shale — thousands of feet below the surface — to extract natural gas. 

How much water? Our Ohio neighbors estimate that as much as 5 million gallons per well are needed to break up their Utica shale and release the natural gas trapped underground. One official said that if every well in Carroll County is drilled, companies will use some 805 million gallons of water to free the gas and oil. The Buckeye State also estimates that upward of 2,250 wells could be drilled there by the end of 2015. 

A Dayton Daily News article notes that 2010 records in Carroll County showed that residents, farms and businesses drew 378 million gallons of water from the ground, lakes and streams.

For the record, hydraulic fracturing in New York may not become a reality for some time yet, if ever, based on the state Assembly vote Thursday, 95-40, approving a two-year moratorium so vital health impact studies may be completed. State Sen. David Carlucci of the Independent Democratic Conference proposed a similar two-year ban earlier in the week but its support remains unclear since the IDC shares power with the Senate Republicans. The GOP has tended to favor the gas drilling plan.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told reporters that although the majority Democratic conference is eager to address the economic problems upstate, it is important to make certain that fracking will not pose risks to human health or the environment. Thus, the moratorium is appropriate until the impact studies are finished, he added.

Even if the lawmakers eventually approve the controversial fracking process, the Southern Tier would likely benefit the most from the job creation since that’s the area where the Marcellus Shale is dominant in the Empire State. In addition to New York, the formation stretches across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Ohio. It is believed to contain more than 410 trillion feet of natural gas.   

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THE FLIP SIDE: New York’s recently enacted gun control law has upset some mental health advocates who claim provisions in the law unfairly stigmatize people diagnosed with mental illness. The law requires therapists and other clinicians report patients to a centralized data base if they’re considered a threat to themselves or others.An official with the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services contends the new law could damage trust between patients being treated and their therapists.

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MONEY TALK: Overheard at Murphy’s Cafe, Third Street: “The lottery is a tax on idiots. Or on people who can’t do math” — two lawyers discussing the state budget deficit.

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HELPING HANDS DEPT.: If you’re heading to the St. Patrick’s Day Party March 17 at the Conference Center Niagara Falls, you can assist less fortunate people by donating non-perishable food items at the door. Everything collected will be donated to the Heart, Love & Soul Food Pantry in the city’s North End. The agency feeds hundreds of people every day.

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THINK SPRING?: A reminder that the popular Buffalo Home & Garden Show continues today at the Buffalo Convention Center. It also is scheduled for March 15-16, from 10 a.m. to 9 p..m., and March 17, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Contact reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.