Recent News on Natural Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale

Actors Wade Into the Fracking Debate

New York Times

Environmental groups seeking to mobilize opposition to the gas industry’s plan to drill extensively in the Marcellus Shale in upstate New York have pulled out the big guns: celebrities, of course.

In a new online video, a group of New York-based actors, including Ethan Hawke, Mark Ruffalo and Zoë Saldana, sing the praises of the state’s water while making tea, fly-fishing and, in the case of Mr. Hawke, taking a bath. Referring to allegations of water contamination and other environmental and economic problems in parts of the country where fracking is already taking place, the video warns viewers that their drinking water is at stake.

“My family moved to our quiet farming town on the Delaware River so we could enjoy a simple, healthy life outside of the bustling city,” Mr. Ruffalo said in a statement. “We want to enjoy that peace down the road, and know that the tap water we drink, and bathe our children in, is safe.”

The video, also featuring the actors Amy Ryan, Josh Charles and Nadia Dajani, is the latest salvo in an advertising campaign organized by a coalition of major environmental groups that are trying to bring attention to the risks of the controversial method of natural gas drilling known as hydrofracking. The effort comes as New York officials write drilling regulations that are intended to ensure the safety of water supplies and the environment.


Editorial: On hydrofracking, slow doesn’t have to mean stop


The New York State Assembly this week joined a chorus of officials and environmental advocates — including the state attorney general — who believe that when it comes to a controversial method of natural gas-drilling called hydraulic fracturing, New York should proceed with caution.
Caution is indeed warranted. That’s because under proposals to drill into the Marcellus Shale basin in this state and in neighboring states, water supplies could be adversely affected. The state doesn’t have enough information to know all of the possible implications of the drilling, let alone telling the power companies full steam ahead.

On Monday, the Assembly’s Democratic leadership passed a one-year moratorium on so-called “hydrofracking” for natural gas to further study the deep, high-pressure drilling’s environmental impact, especially on drinking water. Hydrofracking refers to a method of gas extraction that involves pumping pressurized chemicals through cracks in the shale.


Lopez calls for protection of groundwater

Catskill Newspapers

CATSKILL — The New York State Assembly voted 91-46 to pass a moratorium banning the state from issuing new hydraulic fracturing permits until June 1, 2012.

The deeply divisive subject centers on using water to drill for natural gas. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, hydraulic fracturing has been used in New York since the 1980s.

Environmentalists have voiced strong opposition to the process, alleging it poses a risk to drinking water quality. The DEC said the process of drilling for natural gas may use up to one million gallons of water. Environmental effects are still being studied.

Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie, said the moratorium will allow the state Legislature to make a detailed assessment of the issue.

My question being, Is there a way to tap for natural gas safely? I understand how sensitive our ground water supplies are,” Lopez said.

New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the moratorium will allow people to make informed decisions about hydrofracking.

"The Legislature will have more time to study the concerns associated with hydrofracking and determine if the benefits of this natural resource can be safely realized without compromising our drinking water and devastating our environment. Hopefully, the Senate will support the moratorium and approve this bill,” Silver said in a statement.



Press Connects

ALBANY — New York could see $11.4 billion in economic activity by 2020 and up to 18,000 new jobs by 2015 if the state allows gas companies to drill into the massive Marcellus Shale formation, according to a report released Tuesday by a conservative think tank.

The report, paid for by the business-backed Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, found that state and local governments would gain $1.4 billion in tax revenues alone over the next nine years.

The study's authors — who also penned a report in 2009 that was partially commissioned by the natural-gas industry and released through Pennsylvania State University — also found that the typical Marcellus Shale gas well reaps about $4 million in economic benefits, while the environmental impacts come to about $14,000 per well.

Their study is based on a prediction of 330 horizontal wells in New York, which primary author Timothy Considine said is a conservative estimate. The number could expand five-fold, he said, if gas companies decide to tap into the Utica Shale — a much larger formation that lies below the Marcellus.

Both formations lie below large portions of New York, with the Marcellus region taking up much of the Southern Tier and part of the Hudson Valley.

"It could be much larger than the numbers projected in my report," said Considine, a professor at the University of Wyoming. "The $11.4 billion number is based on a fairly limited development scenario in the Southern Tier of New York, like Broome and Chemung counties."


Assembly Democrats Seek Pause in Drilling

Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. —The New York Assembly's Democratic leadership is pressing for a one-year moratorium on so-called hydrofracking for natural gas to further study the environmental impact of the deep drilling, especially on drinking water.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, says his chamber will vote to postpone issuing state permits for new hydraulic fracturing until June 1, 2012.

Drillers release trapped gas by pumping huge volumes of water, laced with much smaller amounts of chemicals and sand, underground.
Mr. Silver says people's health and welfare must take precedence over industry profits. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.

A spokesman says Gov. Andrew Cuomo is awaiting the Department of Environmental Conservation's draft environmental impact statement this summer and will evaluate it.


NY assembly extends fracking ban for another year


The New York State Assembly on Monday passed a one-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, a method of natural gas drilling already under a temporary ban in the state due to concerns that it might pollute drinking water.

The moratorium on new drilling permits would run through June 1, 2012, replacing the current ban set to expire later this summer, when state environmental officials are expected to release a report on potential hazards of "hydrofracking."

The measure must also pass the Republican-controlled state Senate to become law.

Opponents say fracking, which involves blasting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into rock to release the gas trapped inside, pollutes water and air.

Industry officials say opponents have exaggerated the environmental impact, while economic benefits to the state would be significant. New York is home to a large piece of the Marcellus Shale, a massive formation believed to be one of the richest natural gas deposits on the planet.

An industry spokesman said the proposed moratorium could eliminate up to 4,500 jobs on vertical hydrofracking, which is allowed. The current ban affects horizontal drilling.


Our view: 'Fracking' with care holds key to energy future

USA Today

Little more than a decade ago, the United States was running so low on natural gas that companies were making plans to cover the shortfall with imports of liquefied natural gas. Today, though, the marine terminals built to dock huge LNG ships in Texas, Louisiana and Maryland are being converted to ship gas out, not just bring it in.

This remarkable reversal of fortune is the result of a dramatic boom in a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," which uses high-pressure water mixed with chemicals and sand to crack open shale formations. This technique has brought a surprising amount of new gas production from states as disparate as Texas, North Dakota and Pennsylvania — enough combined with conventional supplies to last perhaps 100 years at current consumption rates.

That's game-changing, wildly underdiscussed news. Gas now meets only about a quarter of the nation's energy needs, much of it for home heating and industrial use. But if estimates of shale gas reserves are correct — and they seem to just get bigger — gas could begin to displace oil as a fuel for vehicles and might even help unseat coal as the nation's dominant fuel for generating electricity. Price pressures would ease; dependence on unstable supplies of foreign oil could decline.


New deadline for N.Y. fracking review draws mixed reviews

Press Connects

ALBANY — A directive last week from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office to expand the state's ongoing review of natural-gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing drew praise from environmental groups and some lawmakers.

But it was the very last line of that directive that left some of them a bit miffed.
After asking the DEC to visit the site of a Pennsylvania gas well blowout, Cuomo's office ordered for a second draft of the DEC's environmental review to be "completed for issuance by July 1, 2011."

The move enacted a firm deadline for the first time, and it gave the gas industry a glimmer of hope that the process is moving ahead.

Some environmentalists said they weren't pleased with the new deadline, urging the Cuomo administration not to place any time limits on the nearly three-year-old review process.

"For us, I think it's disappointing," said Roger Downs, conservation associate for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. "We know (the DEC) has an enormous amount of work to do, and that now the administration has loaded up another study to do and it appears they've given them less time."

High-volume hydrofracking is the injection of millions of gallons of a mix of water, sand and chemicals to break up shale formations, such as the Marcellus Shale.

Proponents say it could bring a much-needed economic boost to the upstate region, while some say the environmental risks outweigh the potential rewards. Meanwhile, high-volume fracking remains


Latest Fracking Awareness Event Planned in Binghamton, NY

Heat USA

The Finger Lakes Clean Waters Initiative, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the potential dangers of hydraulic fracturing, particularly as a threat to public drinking water, is hosting a two-day event this weekend in Binghamton, NY, the Star Gazette reported.

The event kicks off on Saturday at the Binghamton Riverwalk Hotel and Conference Center, where speakers will give presentations focusing on the health effects of fracking. Attorney Joe Heath will explain how to end a gas lease, with various workshops to follow. Then, Sunday marks the Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival – nine local bands performing for free with a suggested $10 donation.

“Saturday is education. Sunday we’re going to rock out at Recreation Park,” said organizer Christopher Tate.

Officials said Binghamton was an ideal location because the Southern Tier is “a focal point” of the natural gas drilling debate.



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