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Monday, November 7, 2011

Can A Town Ban Fracking?

Workers move a section of well casing into place at a Chesapeake Energy natural gas well site near Burlington, Pa. (AP)

Workers move a section of well casing into place at a Chesapeake Energy natural gas well site near Burlington, Pa. (AP)

The town board of Dryden, New York voted recently to include fracking in the town law that bans related industries like mining.

Now Dryden is facing a lawsuit from an out-of-state drilling company which says the ban goes against New York State law.

Dozens of towns across the state with similar bans against gas extraction are watching the case closely. And the issue of hydro-fracking is dividing communities across the nation as the industry grows rapidly.

The natural gas industry says it delivers clean energy and revives local economies. Opponents point to land and water pollution, and growing reports of illness around fracking sites.


  • Abrahm Lustgarten, reporter with the non-profit, non-partisan investigative journalism site Pro Publica.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Olorcain2

    I don’t want fracking near my house.  Even if it did no other environmental damage why would anybody think that gallons and gallons of water treated with mass amounts of chemicals be a good thing.  With all our intelligent scientists in this country we can’t come up with a better idea to get energy?

  • X-Ray

    From the broadcast one can hear which side of the story the host was on. From the questions, comments, spinning and choice of examples, and what was deemed reliable or not, the bias against fracking was plain to hear.

    • Steve

      If anyone talks about problems land-owners, families, citizens are reporting due to fracking they are biased.  Therefore, let’s just assume everything is OK

  • Empacher

    Setting aside the highly debatable “virtues” of extracting gas through fracking, Robin’s comment about increased LNG tanker activity in our harbors was a bit odd.

    As far as I am aware, domestically refined LNG is distributed via pipelines…not tankers. LNG tankers bring us gas refined thousands of miles, and a few seas, away. Hence, we should see fewer tankers if this activity goes forward.

    Maybe Robin thinks we’ll be exporting LNG, and thus be loading tankers ourselves. I am not seeing that as a very likely outcome.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DPKS3HUGQBPILPIU7IVZSHGXLI Robert_N

      Why not? If memory serves, there’s a terminal here in Oregon that is/was pondering a switch to exporting. Heck, the U.S. even exports other petroleum products. It depends on who’s the highest bidder, and it has become a truly globalized marketplace. That’s one reason the latest production rate projections for oil in particular call into question how much prices will really be affected by all this activity.

  • Nick A.

    The drilling community has been the overwhelming benficiary of loose EPA standards. As of today, they are not required to list the chemicals used to frack gas out of shale plates deep in the earth. It is a harmful practice that will eventually add injury to an already stressed to the limit clean water problem here, and around the globe. We simply cannot continue to find short term answers for long term environmental issues.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DPKS3HUGQBPILPIU7IVZSHGXLI Robert_N

      Agreed. And this is just another chapter in the story of the move toward
      unconventional (and riskier) sources of fossil fuel, because we simply
      aren’t willing as a nation and world to seriously invest in accelerating
      the transition from them.

      Natural gas, if used wisely and efficiently,
      could be a sort of bridge fuel, but it’s not a panacea. That includes
      from the perspective of rapid fossil carbon accumulation in the
      atmosphere (and associated ocean acidification). Some recent research suggests natural gas could
      lose a significant part of it’s advantage over more carbon-intensive
      fuels, due to the increased leakage of methane (another greenhouse gas)
      associated with fracking. We’re already overloading the natural carbon
      cycle, so adding substantial amounts to the ‘methane budget’ is probably
      something we want to avoid.

  • Matthewnewbury

    You need to worry about the surface runoff of chemicals that are spilled during the fracking process. Many runoff when it rains on the caliche pas at the wellsite. My hands turn Orange when I handle myacide. I’m a laid- off teacher who desperately wants another teaching job, but I have to frack right now to pay the bills. I feel sick every day.

    Matthew from-

  • Ljr4428

    talk to the mayor of Lytle, Texas about the harm done to a small town by fracking.
    Earthquake just south of San Antonio about two weeks ago, lots of big trucks near a school, outside workers- not developing jobs for the residents, etc.

  • Sue Kiser

    You did not speak of the plastic lined pools where the water which contains the chemicals is poured after use in the fracking process. The chemicals which are mixed with this water are known only to the gas companies who are not required to disclose the information to the public. The recent floods in Binghampton NY and surrounding areas have raised even more concerns regarding these holding pools. What happens to these chemicals when released is unknown. My husband and I who are living in Washington state but own property and are from the Cooperstown/Otsego CO NY area where we want to return when we retire soon are sure watching all this as it plays out. Having so many farms in the area fail there are many acres that regardless of nonuse are still taxed. This hardship to so many folks who are land rich and money poor too often see this as a way out. But at what price?  The damage can be widespead so even if this process is not being done on your propery but nearby, you still can be victim to it. Upstate New York has by history been an expensive place to live ( some people actually take out bank loans each winter to pay the cost of heating their homes). There is only so much industry and jobs available so it has always been an area of poor growth.  This situation has created a ripe opportunity for gas companies. Once the leases are a done deal there is no turning back. The gas wells are than forever property of the gas companies as well as the access roads that lead to them. We are already seeing  people who are looking to buy a property in this area wanting to be 100% sure the current owner has not signed a lease to the gas companies. This is a very complicated issue with so many widespread problems that going into it we can all just feel the damage to the future of the area and our children. The gas companies are like drug dealers standing next to their Cadilac holding out free drug samples to  addicts craving the drug but have no money to pay. It hurts me so much to imagine what my childhood hometown might become. If fracking is going to happen there is no going home and building our new place. Going home  to all our family  may not be a dream we can realize. Thanks, Sue Kiser-Georgia of Collge Place, Wa 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_POSMTLMJIYUD7PDLDTT3W2NG6M another anonymous

    Seems many people are not aware of what is happening to the gas after it is fracked. Well, IT IS GOING OVERSEAS. We are not ruining our waters/land for ourselves as everyone is trying to tell us. We are doing it for capitalistic reasons. To earn the big buck! This gas will NOT be used in the U.S. I say, we should send unmarked bottles of the water after fracking has been completed and the gas is being pulled out about 6 months to the corporate offices of each and every single gas company with a gift card. Simply that it is water from: Any City, Any State, Any Country as bottles are labeled now. How much water is actually coming into our markets from taps or ‘other’ waters that is not listed on labels. Nothing against the law, address of where water comes from is there, and, there is nothing listed as to what is in the water (not currently on labels now so no need to add later). See how sick they get and THEN what they will do after they, their families and friends are sick.

    What goes around comes around.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=14313816 Tim Noble

      The United States is a net importer of natural gas.

      See this information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas exports have risen since at least 1999, but we still import far more than we export.

  • Anonymous

    Lets be clear, we need energy…especially domestic energy…..but every solution has a cost….and a benefit….

    Lets first examine this from a purely economic standpoint….

    Frackers say they create jobs, and the jobs angle gets attention, certainly jobs are created for some period of time as the well is placed and put into operation…to believe the fracker, this work injects money into local communities. True Enough, but for a short and finite period of time.

    Now lets look at the cost side of the ledger.

    What are the actual and associated costs associated with fracking?

    The local communities have to deal with the cost of infrastructure, this is a community based cost on those living near a well pad. Maintaining roads 12 months a year for the increased truck traffic among them. Then there is the cost of dropping home and land values…..does someone want to buy land next to a drill pad knowing that a possible accident could cause the value of their land to evaporate….or become contaminated..so if property value drops, naturally so does real estate tax revenue….what happens when banks wont loan or refi properties at or near a wellhead for fear of the same accident / contamination risk….
    we wont bother to calculate the actual cost of contamination of a local water supply or watershed area, but it has to factor in because it is a possibility, however remote industry claims it to be, its is simply a risk with huge downside…

    Banks are already starting to pull away from mortgages where the owners wish to sell drilling rights, and they are also demanding to know that the drill pad on my neighbors farm cannot drill anywhere below my land….how far down do my mineral rights go…..If I can put up a drill pad and drill under your land, ten I have effectively bought your rights for ZERO……thats a signiifcant cost……

    So local community A receives $X in benefit, and $XXX in risk cost…..

    Wellhead / downhole accident risks are not a matter of  “If”, they are simply a matter of “When” , when you consider the scale at which industry wishes to drill….so who’s card gets punched when that happens?

    The first clue of discomfort is that the firms like Chesapeake Energy and others dont want to disclose fully the chemicals used in their processes…I get it, too many chemicals ending in “zene”…..they claim to want to be compliant here, but will they ask their kids to drink water that has been in contact with those “zene’s”…..no they wont, but they will ask your kids to…..

    Anyway, the cost benefit picture here needs to be considered, after all whatever they pay in royalties to some poor farmer, will typically be dwarfed by what the fracker earns many times over….noone is demanding 50% royalties from the frackers, so the Frackers are literally walking away with resources for little to nothing. Good plan if you are the Fracker.

    Drilling is not the issue here, we need domestic supplies of predictable energy…..but it need’nt be fossil fuels, and it need’nt be with a brute force drilling technology that has the downside risk that fracking presents..there are alternative drill methods that dont require millions of gallons of downhole water, that comes back completely contaminated….industry seems to prefer fracking because it is cheap and easy… they clearly believe that whatever “accidents” may occur, that they are clearly limited in their legal liability, and have lawyers to back it up and roll over any public citizen that comes their way. They are not concerned with and accidents impacts on the public, only thier legal liability exposure.

    Also, lets not even go to the processing and discharge of the downhole bore water that has almost zero regulation and enforcement…..the public does not know and industry is not required to inform anyone where this processed water is being released, particularly in PA. I dont know of a facilitiy that has the ability to process out radioactivity from millions of gallons of waste water from a drill site….but the plants that accept ths water and process it routinely release it into local rivers afterwards…..can someone process the risk cost to the public for me on that…?

    Does disposing of this water in downhole injection wells really address the problem with contaminated byproduct?

    If we cannot balance the risk/ reward, cost / benefit profile here like adults, we are creating a high cost problem as quickly as 3-5 years down the road…..

    taking the easy simply way out of an complex problem like energy is what has got us to where we are now….so why do it again….?

    Oh, I forgot…follow the money.

  • Randy

    Another article today on the continued horrors from fracking and yet we still want to do it for the cash.

  • Anonymous

    No amount of money saved by gas prices should make you want to risk your loved ones and family’s health.  This will destroy us all, poisoning our air and water….What else is there to say??? The proof is in the many lives already lost and destroyed…knowledge is power so apply it the right way           our children deserve a future

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