Pros and cons of hydrofracking

Is hydrofracking right for New York state?

By Lindsay Garten

Hydrofracking is an invasive technique used to extract natural gas. This process involves millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals, to create a fluid necessary in the hydrofracking process. This fluid is forced down a newly drilled hole in the rock formation called a well bore at a high pressure. This creates or expands fractures while simultaneously trapping gas. It is then necessary to extract the gas from the rock formation. To do this proppants are injected to prevent the fractures from closing. With the fracture securely opened, it is possible to harvest the gas from the rock formation into a form that can be used for energy.

Photo Courtesy of: Marcellus Protest/Flickr Creative Commons

While environmentalists are generally opposed to hydrofracking, there are some rewards to the process. According to a New York Times article titled “Report Outlines Rewards and Risks of Upstate Natural Gas Drilling”, a report by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) stated that hydrofracking could create 37,000 jobs providing employment opportunities for numerous New Yorkers. This would lead to increased consumption from New York state businesses and would generate between $31 million to $185 million a year in added state income taxes.

While these are definitely benefits of hydrofracking, there are many environmental concerns about the process. Hydrofracking fluid is made up of 99% water and 1% chemicals including benzene, arsenic and polycyclic aromatics, known carcinogens. Environmentalists are worried that this fluid would end up in waterways and contaminate the water supply. Eventually the fluid could flow into the Hudson River, hydrofracking where it would ultimately impact millions of residents in New York City and neighboring counties. In the New York Times article, Ken Zeserson, the Planning Board chairman for the town of Ulysses, in Tompkins County, said, “We can’t do what we do if we have poisoned water and an industrialized network of pipelines.”

Additionally, each “fracking” uses one to two million gallons of water; this wastewater would then need to be treated. Currently, there are not enough treatment plants to handle this excess water. Without sufficient cleaning, this chemical infused water would flow into rivers, lakes, streams etc. Polluting the states water supplies would have obviously negative ramifications and is something to be avoided.

While a final decision on whether to allow hydrofracking in the state of New York has not been made, environmentalists are concerned that the decision process is being rushed. In an online-question-answer session, Governor Andrew Cuomo stated, “My point all along is to make the decision on hydrofracking based on the facts and on the science. This is not an issue to be decided by politics or emotion. D.E.C.’s process is fair, intelligent and open, and I am letting the process proceed.”